By Lisi Martinez Lotz PhD, Program Director, Vaccine Ambassadors
Vaccine Ambassadors was created by parents and healthcare professionals in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of immunizations for all children, whether living in an area where vaccines are part of routine care or where this resource is far less common. By becoming Vaccine Ambassadors during their clinic visit, parents are able to give to the global community, while also engaging in a conversation with their pediatrician on the value of immunizations.
Our program speaks to the issue of under vaccination. In many areas of the world lack of access leads to low vaccination rates, while in others it is a direct consequence of misinformation. Vaccine Ambassadors offers parents a meaningful way to make an impact in the lives of children who otherwise would go without life-saving vaccines, while also highlighting the need for vaccines in our local communities.
It is devastating to lose a child under any circumstances, but it is unconscionable that decades after the introduction of vaccines, children still continue to die from preventable diseases. Most parents in the United States do not worry that the fate of their child may be determined by their ability to receive basic vaccines. Unfortunately, vaccines are not the standard of care everywhere and many parents are surprised to learn that every year 1.5 million children die before their 5th birthday because they were unable to receive routine immunizations.
Vaccines are often referred to as a victim of their own success. With no memory of the devastation caused by these illnesses, some parents have now begun to question whether or not to vaccinate. Ironically, the fear has shifted from the disease to the vaccine. It is interesting to note that we don’t see the same anxiety and apprehension directed at other common medical treatments and prevention. When children are prescribed antibiotics, a bronchodilator or advised to take over the counter medications like Tylenol there is far less concern over the possibility of an adverse reaction even though the likelihood is greater. Why this fear is reserved for vaccines is unclear.
The false assumption that epidemics only take place elsewhere leads to a false sense of security. Recent outbreaks in the U.S. and Europe demonstrate that not only are unvaccinated children at-risk themselves, but they put others in jeopardy as well. The need for “herd immunity” is especially critical for newborns who are too young to be fully vaccinated. It can be difficult to find reliable information on the internet, and even mainstream television. The role of healthcare providers is crucial in helping parents obtain accurate information. Once factual scientific information is presented the decision becomes an easy one.
Pediatricians are excited about Vaccine Ambassadors because it allows them to have a conversation not only about vaccine safety, but about the dire consequences that affect children who do not receive vaccines as routine care. Vaccine Ambassadors serves both our global and local community by connecting families in the U.S. to families elsewhere in the world.
For more information on our partner, Vaccine Ambassadors visit vaccineambassadors.org.
Lisi Martinez Lotz PhD has a doctorate in Latin American History and Gender Studies from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has extensive experience working in non-profit and academic sectors. Lisi is currently the Coordinated Community Response Specialist for the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Prior to this position, Lisi worked at Compass Center for Women in Families helping victims of domestic violence navigate the legal system in addition to managing the agency’s Community Outreach and Violence Prevention programs. Her extensive background and personal ties in Latin America are an excellent fit with Vaccine Ambassadors‘ work in the region.