As a parent living in the United States where vaccines are the routine standard of care it is hard to imagine that 19.4 million children go without basic immunizations each year and that 1.5 million children won’t live to see their 5th birthday. In the summer of 2006, I first became aware of these astonishing facts while working on the Global AIDS Project at the University of North Carolina, serving children and families with HIV living in Democratic Republic of Congo.
As a healthcare provider I was astounded by this disparity, as a parent of young children I was humbled and sadden. I had the good fortune of teaming up with co-founders, Eric Montross and Dr. Jacob Lohr, two of the most committed advocates for children’s health. What started out as a conversation with other parents and healthcare providers evolved into the creation of Vaccine Ambassadors, a philanthropic immunization organization in which every citizen can be a Vaccine Ambassador to a child and to a community.
At the heart of Vaccine Ambassadors was the creation of a pediatric clinic-based program that allowed parents and children receiving health care at their pediatrician’s office the opportunity to become Vaccine Ambassadors. By simply adding a small contribution ($2) during their visit, it would ensure that each time their child received health care another child in the world would benefit as well.
As parents, we know the worry we feel when our children get sick. Whether it’s a fever or cough, or something far more serious, we do everything we can to help our children get well and to keep them healthy. Yet many parents around the world can only sit by helplessly when their children become ill because their families lack access to basic healthcare services, including routine immunizations.
While we often talk in numbers and statistics, we must remember that behind each number (1.5 million deaths) there is a person that will never reach their potential. This is an irreplaceable loss to a family and a community that is no longer whole. All parents deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their child is protected. We ask that you join us in sending a message to parents around the world that we care about the fate of children everywhere by becoming a Vaccine Ambassador today.