I give thanks daily that my 14-year-old child is incredibly healthy. It is a gift for which I am incredibly thankful, and it is one of the reasons I attended the Shot@Life Champion Summit this week in Washington, D.C. Shot@Life is a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that aims to get vaccines to developing countries.
I’m grateful to see my child grow up. I want every other mother in the world to be see their children grow.
I volunteer with Shot@Life One because that doesn’t happen right now. Around the globe, a child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease.
I struggle to wrap my mind around that heartbreaking fact and the tremendous amount of sadness and loss that it represents.
In fact, one of the most powerful moments of the Shot@Life Champions Summit this week was hearing Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta talk about the grief of her paternal grandmother in India. She gave birth to eleven infants, only six of whom survived.
She reminded Champions that while we often talk about statistics, we don’t often talk about the staggering amount of grief that goes hand in hand with them.
While I’ll never be able to truly comprehend the number of mothers who have lost their infants to vaccine-preventable diseases, just thinking about it makes me cry.
The tears make the kind older man sitting next to me in the airport bar as a I write this is a little concerned about me.
We chatted briefly and it turns out that he is not shocked by the statistic because he has traveled to remote parts of the world. He has seen the great suffering that could have been prevented by vaccines.
(Side note: I don’t typically hang out at the airport bar. It was just where I could get access to a power source while I wait for my flight back to Chicago and my family, including that ridiculously healthy high schooler who is the light of my life.)
As sad as the loss makes me, I am buoyed by the fact that there is hope. There is a solution to this problem.
This week I learned about the heroic work the U.N. Foundation, UNICEF, GAVI and their partners in various corners of the planet are doing to get vaccines to all who want them. I heard about the remarkable mothers who make Herculean efforts to have their children immunized, as well as from scientists who have devoted their lives to stopping these deadly diseases.
Immunizations are amazing. They save lives. They are a solution to a problem, and a way to prevent immesaurable grief.
That’s why, while I was in our nation’s capital, I asked my lawmakers to please fund the bills that provide for vaccination and ultimately the eradication of these diseases. They often fall under foreign aid. The same day that I was on Capitol Hill, Florida Senator Marco Rubio sent this tweet:
Foreign Aid is not charity. We must make sure it is well spent, but it is less than 1% of budget & critical to our national security.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 28, 2017
One of the reasons I love working with Shot@Life is because it is a nonpartisan issue. There is support from both parties. As a fellow Champion said, people on both sides of the aisle love healthy babies.
As I told the staffers in D.C., nothing would delight me more than to have Shot@Life become irrelevant because these diseases are eradicated.
Until that happens, I will fight to make get rid of polio in the three countries in which it remains.
I will keep saying that I think vaccines is a way to keep Americans safe, because of what Sen. Rubio said and because microbes don’t need passports to travel.
I will continue to care for those moms and their babies, because I am a mother and human being.
If you want to learn more about Shot@Life, you can do so here.
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