Capitol Hill once seemed like a place for just tourists and politicians. Earlier this week, I walked onto Capitol Hill advocating for change. It was quite surreal for a girl that grew up in southeastern Kentucky. It was one of the most exciting and exhilarating days of my life. I was getting to speak up for someone who was unable to do so.
While we were there, our group visited the offices of Senator (R) Rand Paul, Senator (R) Mitch McConnell, Representative (D) John Yarmuth from 3rd congressional district, Representative (R) Andy Barr from 6th congressional district , and Representative (R) Thomas Massie from the 4th congressional district.
Walking into Senator (R) Rand Paul’s office was a lesson in humility. We walked into a “gun fight that we knew we were gonna lose” but we walked in there anyhow. Senator Paul is a very vocal advocate against any United States Foreign Aid. The United States only spends about 1% of the fiscal budget each year on foreign aid and diplomacy. It is touted by many journalists that Senator Paul uses his opposition and out spoken nature to gain media attention. After all, negative attention is still attention. I guess he hopes that the U.S. is never directly attacked, that we won’t need allies, and we have never received any foreign assistance from other countries.
Senator Paul should realize global health also impacts U.S. health. I would hope as a physician he would see those implications. Germs do not carry passports, outbreaks of infectious diseases in other countries still means the possibility of outbreaks in the U.S. In 2000, measles were declared to be eliminated from the United States but due to vaccination propaganda and resulting lowered vaccination rates, in 2011 there were 222 cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. Just across the “lake”, in England measles cases are at an 18 year high. There have already been cases of the measles reported in the U.S. this year. Complications from measles can be deadly especially in young children and those with compromised immune systems. An outbreak of measles in the U.S. doesn’t just involve the health of an individual and their family. A reported case of the measles requires CDC notification, exposure and tracking measures, and the alert of CDC personnel. It places a significant burden on the healthcare system which is entirely unnecessary. It also affects public transportation and education systems, it is an infectious disease which has easy modes of transmission.
U.S. Today reported that a measles outbreak in Utah in 2011 cost $300,000, that was one outbreak! It only costs $5 to immunize one child from measles and polio for life, $20 covers measles, polio, pneumonia and rotavirus. These are diseases which are easily prevented if the we intervened.
|These children are real. This photo is from a Shot@Life observation trip to Uganda.|
In reality the most important impact should be humanitarian. The prevention of needless deaths. We are a global society. All American citizens were once immigrants from somewhere. I can trace my roots to Ireland and Scotland, along with my Native American heritage. My son has lineage in Ecuador and Spain. Everyone deserves access to life saving vaccinations, regardless of place of birth. A child and their family shouldn’t be punished because they were born in Africa, Pakistan, Guatemala, or any other country. It is the most cost effective form of humanitarian aid. It easily pays off dollar for dollar.
It is unfortunate that Senator Paul, wants to “throw the baby out with the bath water” as we say around here. He might not approve of all forms of foreign aid but global vaccination funding is vital the U.S. and the rest of the World. In reality it isn’t his job to approve of anything. He was elected to vote as the voice of his constituents. He should listen to what the people of the state want and vote for us. In September he proposed that the U.S. cut all foreign aid to Libya, Pakistan, and Egypt because of government disagreements. Why should we punish the children and families of those countries because of government disfunction? Those children are no different than the children living in our own neighborhoods, except our children have access to local health departments and clinics to get vaccinations.
I would like to a take a second to also point out that Senator Rand Paul was one of only 8 senators that voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Last year there were 18,733 unduplicated new referrals to the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association and a total of 39,919 continuing individuals served. To put those numbers in perspective, there is only 31,888 residents in Knox County Kentucky, where I grew up. My brother and a dear cousin were both lost due to domestic violence. Senator Paul must know that his vote was unacceptable.
In this technologically advanced age it is easy to let our Congressmen and Senators know how we feel. You might not have money to donate to the campaign, but if your reading this you have internet access. You can call, email, or write a letter to your Congressmen and Senators to let them know you support U.S. allocated funding for global vaccines. You can also contact them via twitter.
I don’t care if you are a teacher in Barbourville, a coal miner from Harlan, a farmer from Mayfield, an attorney from Lexington, or if you fall anywhere in between. If you are 18 years old, you have a voice and you should let it be heard. Your vote counts, you elect the officials. I am going to make it simple.
Here are the websites for officials for the State of Kentucky, if you live outside of Kentucky you can use google and find yours.
I hope you will contact them and let your Senators and Congressmen know how you feel, whether it be about global vaccines, domestic violence, or any issue you feel is relative to you.
Happy Fabulous Friday,