Last week was National Immunization Week and I was invited to sit on a panel at the Immunize Nevada screening of an amazing short film made by high school students in California. The film, Invisible Threat, is incredibly powerful and made with a journalistic integrity that we don’t see a lot of these days. By the end, I had been moved to tears. Watch the trailer below for a glimpse of the film:
I’ll admit that sitting on a panel of doctors, nurses and health department officials made me a little insecure. I felt like there was nothing I could offer this audience of medical and nursing students, parents and community members. After all, the only initials behind my name are M.O.M. and I’m known in the Petty household to distribute Gummy Vitamins for all sorts of maladies.
I was surprised when an audience member wanted to know how the Reno Moms Blog community felt about vaccinations. I told them that it wasn’t a topic that we had discussed publicly, but that we had shared information about immunization clinics and back to school shots.
Then they wanted to know what they can do to help educate parents about vaccinations. They keep running into the same problem – they try to educate parents about vaccination, but they’re met with skepticism and resistance. They are completely perplexed about how to talk to moms and dads about vaccinating. Parents just don’t know what to believe, despite the abundant scientific evidence that vaccines protect our society from a myriad of disease. The medical world doesn’t have a sexy pro-vaccine celebrity to compete with the Jenny McCarthys and Alicia Silverstones of the world.
My answer to the problem was this: They can keep doing what they’re doing. Sharing research, answering questions for parents, and sharing the heartbreaking anecdotal stories of watching preventable disease affect children and families. But what it will really take to influence parents is a grassroots movement of moms and dads who share that they are pro-vaccine. Because when moms are trying to make a decision about their children, they don’t always start with their pediatrician. They start with their community of online and offline friends. We ask our girlfriends, we search BabyCenter, we see what other moms are sharing on Facebook and we don’t always come away with a clear understanding of what vaccines do and why they are necessary.
There is a whole lot of misinformation out there about vaccines and our generation has no frame of reference for what measles or polio looked like. The closest thing we have to compare it to is Chicken Pox, which was viewed as a rite of passage, rather than a serious disease. We cannot grasp how dangerous Whooping Cough can be, that polio is a historically devastating disease that maimed and paralyzed children until wide-spread vaccination practically eliminated it’s existence, or that Chicken Pox can become Encephalitis, a BRAIN infection. This year there have been 14 outbreaks of Measles in the U.S. and cases of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) are increasing in Nevada. Polio can only be prevented by vaccination and is making an unnecessary global resurgence.
One of the biggest things I took away from Invisible Threat was that we don’t just vaccinate to keep our kids safe. We also vaccinate to keep members of our society, who may have weakened or immature immune systems, healthy, because there are people in this world who cannot be vaccinated. By vaccinating your child, you help to keep another mother’s baby safe. Vaccination is the single biggest parenting decision you make that can help save someone else’s child. That’s a responsibility that I’m willing to take.
So here goes: I’m pro-vaccine. I vaccinate my kids and I would sure love if you did too.
Will you stand with me and proclaim to be Pro-Vaccine? Will you help save a mother from the anguish of losing a child to an unnecessary, avoidable disease? Will you share with your friends and your online community about how important vaccinations are?