Scary Vaccine Realities You Can’t Argue With

The Internet is still buzzing about Kristin Cavallari’s revelation that she hadn’t vaccinated her eighteen-month-old son and didn’t plan on vaccinating the child she’s pregnant with. Her explanation to a Fox TV host: “I read too many books about autism and there’s studies… Now, one in 88 boys is autistic and that’s a scary statistic.” In another interview, she went on to say, “It’s our personal choice, and, you know, if you’re really concerned about your kid get them vaccinated.”

People were slamming Cavallari all over social media the day after I returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., largely focused on vaccines. Shot@Life is a movement aimed at rallying Americans to champion vaccines for children in developing countries, funded by the United Nations Foundation. I’d been part of the Blogust initiative in August, and participating bloggers had been invited to a Global Issues Fellowship.

Some good news I heard: Child mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly half since 1990. Major win. But, horrifyingly, 6.6 million children under 5 die every year.

Let me break it down for you: That’s 18,000 children a day. A child dies every 20 seconds.

Also shocking: 58 percent of deaths in children under 5 are caused by infectious disease. Again, I’ll break it down for you:

Every year, 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

That includes pneumonia, diarrhea, whooping cough and measles. Other children are disabled by diseases like polio that were long ago eradicated here. In Mozambique, mothers sometime do not name their children until they get vaccinated, likely because they do not want to become overly attached to children who might die. Parents in developing nations do not have the luxury of choice. They are not sitting around debating whether or not to vaccinate their kids. Because this is the harsh truth:

When children in developing nations do not get vaccinated, they can die.

Immunization has saved the lives of more babies and children than any other medical intervention in the past 50 years. It’s also one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent deaths: For a mere $20, a child can be vaccinated for a lifetime. Measles vaccines are just 23 cents a dose. And the vaccines are working: Deaths from measles are down 78 percent worldwide since 2000. Polio cases have plunged 99 percent; only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria still have it. As of January, India had officially eradicated polio. A world without polio is within reach.

If you think this issue doesn’t affect you, heads up: Germs don’t need a passport. 

There was a recent measles outbreak in New York City; other cases have been reported around the country in the last couple of months, including California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Measles is super-contagious—you can catch it simply by being in a room where someone infected has been, even after he or she has left. Complications are particularly common among kids younger than five years old. A pregnant woman who gets it is at increased risk for premature labor, miscarriage and low birthweight. And there’s no known cure. With millions of kids around the world unvaccinated, even diseases that have been eliminated in developed countries can return. Think: An infectious disease anywhere is a threat everywhere.

Really simple things you can do

• Follow Shot@Life on Twitter and Facebook and share updates that resonate with you. Donations are always welcome; you can make one here.

• Chronicle your child’s firsts using the Shot@Life app for kids 0 to 5—there’s a milestone tracker, and social media photo sharing so you can raise awareness about Shot@Life. You can also zap your Congressperson an email or tweet.

• Download the free app Donate A Photo and upload a pic of your child to automatically have Johnson & Johnson donate $1 to Shot@Life and other groups. Like this:

• Read and share stories written by celebs and community leaders for the Global Moms Relay Challenge now through May 11. For every share, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1—up to $250,000—to help moms and babies around the world stay healthy.

• Take the United Nations My World global survey and share your priorities for a better world.


Disclosure: The United Nations Foundation provided transportation and lodging for the fellowship training.  

Photo: Shot@Life UNF/Stuart Ramson

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