Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Diseases can become a national issue , not just for other countries, but for the US as well

Did you know that April 24th -30th is World Immunization Week?  During this week, organizations around the world raise their voices to educate, promote, and increase the rates of immunization against vaccine preventable diseases.
As a former nurse from a developing country I still remember walking into small rural towns and seeing children with distended abdomens; suffering from measles, diarrhea, and other childhood diseases.  I witnessed firsthand the pain and sorrow of many mothers when their children were suffering.  I remember their stoic faces as they held back tears while holding their dead child in their arms. I witnessed how diarrhea took the lives of so many little children because mothers did not realize their children could die from it, and saw a two-year-old child with measles in excruciating pain.   The sad part is that all these childhood diseases could have been prevented with a simple vaccine.

 Vaccine-preventable diseases like polio, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia are real and kill many children every year.  A simple vaccine can make the difference between life and death for these children in developing countries and prevention is a relatively low cost.   For instance, for less than $1 US dollar, a child can be safely and effectively vaccinated against measles.  $20.00 will vaccinate a child for life against polio, measles, pneumonia and diarrhea.  In contrast, treatment costs for a child who falls ill from one of those diseases can reach upwards of $100.
In developing countries, many mothers never see their children live to have their 5th birthday . Instead of celebrating a birthday, they have to prepare for their child’s burial. 
Here are the facts:
  • Vaccine preventable diseases claim the lives of 1.5 million children every year – one child every 20 seconds, accounting for nearly one quarter of all childhood deaths.

  • Measles, one of the most contagious and infectious diseases, kills an estimated 450 people each day – the majority of whom are young children.

  •  Polio, a disease that once paralyzed more the 1,000 children a day, has dropped 99% in the last 20 years due to vaccination campaigns, leaving the world nearly polio free. However, until fully eradicated, polio anywhere is threat to children everywhere. 
  • By contrast, immunization prevents more than 2.5 million deaths every year in the past two decades.
  • Two of the most common causes of child death-pneumonia and diarrhea- can be  prevented by existing vaccines.
  •  By scaling-up the delivery of vaccines in 72 of the world's poorest countries from 2011-2020, we can save $151 billion through reduced treatment costs and gains in productivity.
I know these children and mothers in developing countries seem a world far away from our own, but they are no different than us and the children in our own lives and community.  Children everywhere deserve a shot to a healthy life, no matter where they were born or live.
I witnessed the present day need for childhood immunization first hand while on a trip to Uganda with Shot@Life during the fall of 2012. We visited the Ugandan districts of Mumbende and Fort Portal and saw work being done by UNICEF through their “Family Health Days” initiative after church and mosque services.  During these “Family Health Days,” families received free deworming tablets, vitamins, measles and polio vaccines for their children, and HIV and high blood pressure testing for adults.  Mothers with their children lined up and waited patiently to receive needed medical care.
It’s also important to realize that these diseases can become a local issue and a national issue, not just for other countries, but for the US as well.  We are living in a global society; we travel around the world on mission trips, business trips, and family vacations.  We have people coming to our country every day from other countries.   It only takes one person to come in contact with you or you visiting another country to spread disease.  Here in the United States, 129[BB1]  cases of measles have been already been reported in 2014. Usually only about 60 cases in the United States are reported every year. Vaccinations are not just a global issue, vaccinations are a national issue! We part of the human race and we have responsibility for the less fortunate. Policymakers, both here and in Washington, should stand up and support US led global health programs, specifically programs focused on saving the lives of children in developing countries by providing them with vaccines. Together, you, I and our members of Congress can work together to save the life of a child every 20 seconds.
You can make a difference this week by pledging your support for global health, educating yourself or donating at www.shotatlife.org.
Shot@Life, a national movement to educate, connect, and empower Americans to champion for vaccines, is strengthening the call to action for this global cause. Together, we can help save a child’s life every 20 seconds by expanding access to vaccines. For children in developing countries, a vaccine gives the chance at many life “firsts”—first smiles, first birthdays, first steps and more.  [BB1]http://www.cdc.gov/features/measles/#adv2vax #vaccineswork +ShotAtLife 

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