In the United States, there is a raging debate between parents on whether or not to get their children vaccinated. For me, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to do everything I could to protect my children from possible life-threatening diseases. Yes, there were possible side effects, but I felt the risk of not vaccinating was far greater than the risk of vaccinating. For children in many developing countries, not vaccinating is like handing down a death sentence. After all, they don’t have the same access to quality health care, nutrition and sanitary conditions that we take for granted every day.
In fact, in these developing countries, a child dies every 20 seconds from such preventable diseases as diarrhea, measles, pneumonia and polio. To put it another way, the number of children dying every year from preventable diseases in developing countries is nearly equivalent to half the children entering kindergarten in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Education in 2007. That’s A LOT of kids, folks.
Giving these children a chance at a healthy life is simple: Just provide access to vaccines. The results are undeniable. For instance, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children. If your child has suffered through it, you know how draining it can be both physically and mentally for a baby or toddler. Unfortunately, more than half a million children age 5 or younger die as a result of rotavirus, according to the World Health Organization. However, after introducing the rotavirus vaccine in Mexico in 2006, diarrhea-related child deaths dropped 46 percent, saving the lives of approximately 880 children. Saving even one life is notable, but 880? There’s no question that providing vaccines to these and other children in need is something we all should strive to do.
And there are those people stepping up to the plate. In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their foundation would commit $10 billion over the next 10 years to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. In 2011, the United Nations Foundation launched Shot@Life, a campaign to educate, connect and empower Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. This organization makes it easy for you and me to help for as little as $5.
What can $5 do? Just $5 – little more than the cost of your favorite drink at Starbucks – will protect a child from polio and measles for his or her lifetime. For $20, you can give a child a lifetime free of pneumonia, diarrhea, polio and measles. Who wouldn’t want to increase the likelihood of these children in developing countries to reach such milestones as taking their first steps, celebrating their first birthday or starting first grade?
Join me in helping Shot@Life bring vaccines to more children around the globe. Visit shotatlife.org today for more information, get involved and/or make a donation. It may be cliché, but it’s true: Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children throughout the world.