Vaccination: From policy analysis to personal practice for a first-time mom
A full circle moment: My son receives his rotavirus vaccine.
With the measles outbreak dominating the US vaccine-related news (and jeopardizing a trip my two-month old baby and I planned to take to visit family in southern California), I wanted to share some positive news.
Last week, I joined mothers (and fathers) around the world and took my baby boy to receive his first series of childhood vaccines, including the vaccine against rotavirus. As a person working on vaccine-related policy issues, I awoke with a number of emotions and thoughts running through my head:
- Admiration - for the mothers who walk miles and wait hours to receive the same vaccines for which my husband and I carried our baby four city blocks and waited ten minutes; for the science that made it possible to prevent these diseases; and for the complex systems that bring the vaccines safely from their point of manufacture to their place of delivery (a much more complex challenge than one might realize).
- Disbelief - How is it that far too many American parents could make the choice (and have the choice!) not to vaccinate their children, and in turn, leave mine and many others young and immunocompromised children unprotected from diseases that had almost been erased from the US? What so many families in developing countries would give to have the privilege of easy access to these lifesaving tools, yet these parents refuse without scientific basis!
- Pride - to live in a country whose scientists, including those at PATH, helped develop and manufacture many of these vaccines with the support of the US Government. These decision makers and citizens have prioritized making vaccines affordable and accessible to people living in low-resource settings around the world through financial contributions to organizations such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and through the programs of federal agencies, including the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Americans know that protecting the world against vaccine-preventable illness protects Americans at home and abroad, and is the right thing to do.
I am grateful that my son joined the millions of children who will be vaccinated this year. I am glad that the unfortunate news of the vaccine refusers has stimulated discussion about the value of vaccines among American families, and hope that we can all learn from this tragic outbreak the importance of immunizing ourselves and continuing to make existing and to-be-developed vaccines available to families around the world. While it was hard to watch the jabs go into my son's tiny little thighs, when I swaddled him in my arms I felt content.