Images of fireworks and the smell of the outdoor grill all enter into our minds when we think about the Fourth of July, but we all know that it represents much more. It is a date that reaffirms the many freedoms that we should all take a moment to reflect on and be grateful for. As Americans, we are given the ability to make our own choices and decide our own paths; rights that many are not afforded elsewhere. Having the opportunity to vaccinate our children and ourselves is a privilege that is often over looked, but weighs heavily on the scale of opportunities we should be thankful for each day.
We all take things for granted. I know I certainly don’t think how fortunate I am every time I turn on a light switch or get a glass of clean water out of my kitchen faucet, and the same can be said for our appreciation of access to life-saving vaccinations. When I take my children to receive their recommended immunizations or roll up my sleeve to receive my annual flu vaccination, I have never really put much thought into the fact that world-wide epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases continue to exist and consistently devastate communities each year. Only a few short months ago, the people of Ghana held a three-hour long celebration complete with a float and brass band to celebrate the roll out of two new vaccines protecting children from the continent’s deadliest infant diseases, rotavirus and pneumonia. In the United States, some parents view vaccinations as a nuisance that requires time off from work and a visit to the doctor. There has even been an alarming trend of parents spreading out immunizations in an attempt to make vaccinations safer and easier for children to tolerate which actually puts children, who are most vulnerable, at risk of contracting potentially life-threatening diseases. “Although overall vaccine coverage remains high, 40% of parents say they have deliberately skipped or delayed a shot for their children.”
The next time you dread taking your child in for a scheduled immunization, or you think about skipping out on your annual flu vaccination, remember that you are privileged. You have the ability to protect yourself and your family against vaccine-preventable diseases, an opportunity others would literally throw a party for! Just as you would celebrate our country’s freedom, celebrate your right to protect your family from vaccine-preventable diseases. Don’t take your freedom for granted.