One Day, Three Teens, Eight Vaccines and Cherry Red Stilettos

As a special treat for our followers, our very own Anna C. Dragsbaek, President/CEO of the Immunization Partnership, has written a very clever and entertaining post detailing her recent experience immunizing three boys as well as her self-professed love for a pair of cherry red stilettos!  Having worked in a rural hospital as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Anna is all to familiar with the critical role that vaccines play in the health of a community.  Her dedication and commitment to ensure that all communities are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases is a driving force behind rising immunization rates in the state of Texas.  And with that, please help me welcome Anna to  MOMmunizations!

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Community Immunity is a numbers game so I wanted to share a few numbers with you today: 1, 3, 8, and 86.  In one day, I immunized three teenage boys with eight vaccines for $86.   Let’s dissect these numbers a little more.

This year I am hosting a foreign exchange student from Brazil.  He arrived in the USA with just about everything he needed, except for five vaccines:  Meningitis, Polio, Hepatitis A, Varicella and TDaP.  Since he does not have insurance for vaccines, I took him to a public health clinic so that he could get immunized under the ‘Vaccines for Children’ program that offers free or low-cost vaccines to individuals 18 years of age or younger, who lack health insurance.   The total cost for all 5 vaccines: a mere $14.   Next up were my two sons.   My oldest son will be spending the next year in China as an exchange student.  I wanted to make sure that he would be protected against influenza and Typhoid before leaving.   And last but not least, I made sure to get my youngest son immunized against influenza as well.    My two sons went to their primary care provider for their immunizations.  The cost for the flu shots:  $0.   The cost of the typhoid vaccine:  $72.   And thanks to healthcare reform, we didn’t even have a co-pay.   My total cost for eight vaccines that will prevent 9 diseases in three teenage boys who are near and dear to my heart:  $86.  That’s it.  Just $86. And $72 of that was for a travel vaccine that is only recommended for people who are going to be in countries where typhoid is a risk, so if my son weren’t going abroad my total cost would have been $14.   Heck, even a pair of cherry red stilettos couldn’t make me feel like I had spent my money on a better purpose.

I have to confess that, even though I am in the business of immunizations, I was astounded that the cost for all those life-saving vaccines was so minimal.   Granted, my family is blessed to have access to private health insurance and my exchange student has landed in a family that knows how to access community resources for him.  Still, I had to pause and give thanks for many things:  the researchers who developed the vaccines, the distribution mechanisms that get the vaccines to the doctors, the availability of low-cost vaccines for all children regardless of their ability to pay, the school nurses who are at the front lines of keeping our children up-to-date with their immunizations, the nurses who administer the vaccines, the systems that track and monitor vaccine coverage rates, the legislators who fearlessly protect laws that ensure Texas can maintain high immunization rates, and the tireless work of our public health servants who fight the uphill battle of keeping our community safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.

So why is there still such resistance to immunizing?  Well, if you have been following the news, this blog and many others, you already know the answer.   Many people are fearful of vaccines because of rampant misinformation and fraudulent research.   Since my job is to promote and advocate for immunizing, it will not surprise you that I never questioned the need for vaccines, especially since I saw firsthand the effects of a world without vaccines when I worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone, West Africa.    The terrors of vaccine-preventable diseases were a fact of life, with mothers regularly burying their babies due to tetanus, hib meningitis, or pneumococcal.   If you want to know if vaccines are important, ask those moms.   They would walk 10+ miles with a baby strapped to their back and a toddler on their hip, then stand in line for hours under a brutally hot sun just to protect their children from deadly diseases.  For them, vaccines are worth it, and they should be for us too.   Let’s not let complacency and reliance on junk science interfere with doing all we can to protect our families.

Like I said at the beginning of the blog, community immunity is a numbers game–the choices that we all make about immunizations directly impact our friends, family and neighbors.  The more people there are that decline vaccines, the higher the risk for all of us that there will be outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.  So, let’s all do our part and protect ourselves in order to protect each other.   And if your friends or family are hesitant about vaccines, don’t hesitate to voice your support for them and speak out against misinformation.  They will listen to you–sometimes more than their own doctor.

As I ended my day, I felt good about doing all I could to protect the boys I love.  I know that I made a big difference in their lives by making sure that vaccine-preventable diseases will never get in the way of their success or achievements.    All three of my boys have a bright future, and I want to do all I can to keep it that way.   We can’t mitigate all the risks that our children face, but preventing many deadly diseases is easy, and by the way, cheap!    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off in search of a pair of cherry red stilettos…

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