This is a little blog post EpiRen from Epi Times and I worked on to help provide some resources on what You can do in your community after you’ve pledged to vaccinate!
I. As an expecting or current parent
The parental instinct is by far one of the most powerful, most inspiring bonds between humans that I have ever experienced. My mother and grandmother, and even my aunts, have put themselves in mortal danger to protect their children. Well, when it comes to vaccines, no mortal danger is involved. However, it does take some work to make sure that the people around your children are immunized.
- Show your individual commitment to vaccines and let other people know: Much like some parents have “chickenpox parties” (which makes me cringe at the thought), think about having a party for the children in your neighborhood (or at your child’s school) who are immunized. Just like they give ice cream for tonsil removal, it doesn’t hurt to reward children for participating in a community-oriented activity like immunization. This is not to say that children who are not immunized for whatever reason are to be excluded. No! On the contrary, include un-immunized children and use the opportunity to…
- Educate your friends: Remember when you were going to buy a television, install a fence, or go to a movie? Remember how you asked your friends before doing those things in order to have a good experience? Friends look to us for advice and validation of their actions. We all do it. That’s why we need friends. Talk to the parents of un-immunized children as if they are your friends (if they are not already) and be frank about why immunizations are a good deal for the community. Just like you wouldn’t talk down to your friends, don’t talk down or use harsh words to parents who back away from immunization. Likewise, be kind and gentle to children who are not immunized. Remember, being un-immunized is not their fault if they are underage. Be frank but kind in your words. Offer evidence more than opinion, and always be respectful of their decision, even if it’s not the best one. As a mother, you want to do the best for your children, and that is a powerful message to get across. Use that as the jump-off point in your discussion.
II. As a part of the health workforce
“Health Workforce” — is defined as “all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health”, according to the World Health Organization’s World Health Report 2006
“Researchers conducted a national survey of 1,552 parents of children aged 17 and younger, and found that 76 percent said they trusted their child’s doctor ‘a lot’ when it came to getting information about vaccine safety. Other sources trusted ‘a lot’ by parents included other health care providers (26 percent) and government vaccine experts/officials (23 percent).” (Doctors Most Trusted Source of Vaccine Information, Study Finds)
New parents need their health workforce as much as babies need their new parents. Everyone has heard the stories of paranoid parents taking their children to the emergency room with low-grade fevers or the first signs of a rash. This probably isn’t going to change. What can change is their perception of vaccines.
- Show your individual commitment to vaccines and let other people know:
Write a letter to your patients discussing vaccines. (Here’s an example I found: CA Family Doctor’s Letter To Patients On His Children’s H1N1 Vaccine Shots) Think about hosting a informational session for the patients of your practice to come in and listen. Take a picture of the group and put it on your website, send it into the CDC, or send it to me! Think about posting the vaccination rate of your practice or your employees so that people know you practice what you preach. Be transparent.
Educate your co-workers and then your patients. You and your co-workers have a more penetrating influence than friends and family. Make sure that all of you are on the same team and are fighting the same fight.
- If you are a part of the health workforce and your employer doesn’t actually administer vaccines, you need to keep up with vaccine ACCESSIBILITY. Families in the lower socioeconomic status brackets especially struggle with knowing where to go for vaccines and how they are going to pay for them. You don’t need to know all of the eligibility criteria for Vaccines for Children (I don’t…), but you need to know where these resources are. I’ve created a google map for the area around the Dallas Metroplex of all of the Dallas Area immunization clinics. Clinic name, addresses and phone numbers are provided so people can contact them with any questions. I don’t think that the families I run into are going to use the google maps, but if they ask me, I can find out for them. (map of immunization clinics around Dallas, TX)
III. As part of the community
When a disaster occurs, it is not uncommon to see communities come together and help those affected by the disaster. During the September 11 attacks, people in New York helped each other get away from the dust and debris while other members of the community suited up and ran into the disaster zone. When a flood is imminent, it is not uncommon to see community members get together to put up sandbags by the riverbed. Such examples are replicated time and time again.
Do we have to wait for a disaster to help each other? Not when it comes to vaccines. Just like those folks putting up sandbags, getting vaccinated is your individual effort at putting up a buffer zone of immune people around those who cannot be immunized. (This is the concept behind herd immunity.) Like with sandbagging, the effort is best if it is coordinated among large groups of people.
It really doesn’t take being a community activist to organize something at a community level. One suggestion is looking at health care organizations and volunteering with them at immunization drives. Local health departments need help during their annual influenza vaccine clinics. (Have you seen the number of people in line? Do you have a better idea of how the process can be more efficient?) There are plenty of other organizations that need your assistance in the form of time or monetary donations. Here are some:
-Families Fighting Flu