I was just talking with my mom about how my daughter doesn’t have to get any shots at her 2-year-old checkup…hooray! While I’m happy that I’ll get to avoid the tears and anxiety that come with my child getting a shot, I’m nonetheless grateful that we live in a country where vaccines are a routine part of every child’s life.
Most of us probably take for granted the fact that we don’t have to worry about diseases like measles and polio. In many other countries this is not the case.
Addressing this global health issue is an organization called Shot@Life, which is celebrating its first birthday this week. Shot@Life works tirelessly to spread the message that vaccinating children in developing countries is one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives.
To accomplish this admirable goal, Shot@Life empowers Americans to champion the benefit of vaccines to the public, to Congress, and beyond. According to its website, “By encouraging Americans to learn about, advocate for, and donate to vaccines, Shot@Life aims to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life.”
The organization’s strongest supporters are called Shot@Life Champions. This group is responsible for teaching their communities about vaccines and being the cause’s biggest advocates. One such Shot@Life Champion is Annika Erickson-Pearson.
A student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Annika is passionate about international development. Says Annika, “I’m over-involved on campus and help out with a myriad of advocacy organizations. At this point, development advocacy is my hobby!”
Annika learned about Shot@Life through an anti-poverty advocacy organization on her campus called RESULTS, which she now runs. “I knew I was interested in global health, and once I heard about the work Shot@Life does, I knew I had to figure out a way to get involved,” Annika said.
In January, Annika attended the 2013 Shot@Life Champion Summit in Washington, D.C., which she calls “a fantastic experience.” Here she learned more about childhood vaccinations and met with four congressional offices on Capitol Hill. In addition, Annika was able to meet with others who shared her passion for this cause.
Annika at the Shot@Life Champion Summit in Washington, D.C.
“I had the opportunity to meet not only other students interested in the cause, but mothers, doctors, and industry professionals who are passionate about saving lives. It’s unbelievably encouraging to meet people 5, 10, and 20 years older than you who share the same passions and can act as examples for the life I want to lead. And waking up next to the White House isn’t too bad either.”
After returning from the Champion Summit, Annika put her new knowledge into action on campus. She helped coordinate “Get Buff Month” at her school, encouraging students to use the Charity Miles app, which donates money to a charity of your choosing for every mile you run, bike, or walk. If you choose Shot@Life as your preferred charity, the Charity Miles app will even tell you the exact number of vaccines donated at the end of your exercise.
Annika also helped arrange a screening of a documentary called “Revolutionary Optimists,” which highlights the need to solve the world’s treatable health issues. “It’s incredible to see students on campus get excited about the cause.”
The most important piece of information that Annika would like the general public to know is that every 20 seconds, one child dies from a vaccine-preventable disease. However, she says, there are steps that the average person can take to combat that statistic.
So what can you do to help?
1. Arm yourself with knowledge about this very important issue. Check out Shot@Life’s website for more info. Then, spread the word!
2. Donate here. A donation of just $5 will protect a child from polio and measles.
3. Get the Charity Miles app for your smartphone. Choose to donate your miles to Shot@Life and then get moving!
By working with Shot@Life, Annika would ultimately like to see polio eradicated. “It’s doable,” she says. “It’s within our reach. We just need to keep reaching out and spreading the word.”
So the next time you dread going to the pediatrician because your child is due for a vaccine, try to remind yourself just how lucky you are that with one tiny pinprick you are spared from having to worry about any of the many devastating diseases so common to the rest of the world’s children.
Happy 1st Birthday, Shot@Life! May all of your birthday wishes come true…