Thanks & Giving: ONE Campaign Petition for GAVI

November 12, 2014

One of the most valuable gifts we can give to someone else that we can’t get back is our time. What if just a few seconds of your time could alter the life of child in need? I’m not asking you to donate money, clothes, or food. I want you to take a few minutes to read this and just a few seconds to act. On Friday, November 14th the ONE campaign will deliver a petition to the White House asking for help replenishing GAVI (Vaccine Alliance) vaccines. Did you know that every 20 seconds a child dies of a vaccine preventable disease? These vaccines would be available to over 6 million children.

I believe that #everyparent regardless of where they are should be able to watch their child grow up and live a healthy life.

Moments like this……..


Continue reading Thanks & Giving: ONE Campaign Petition for GAVI

Why I choose to Advocate2Vaccinate

March 27, 2014

Fourteen months ago I knew very little about how to contact our Senators and Representatives, much less about lobbying in Washington D.C. Last January, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs selected me to represent them in their partnership with the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign to advocate for global vaccine access. I was sent to Washington, D.C., to learn about public speaking, advocacy, and fundraising, but I discovered much more about myself as a citizen and as a person. 

Image credit: Shot@Life

In 1933, a young woman named Rose Garland Cole graduated from Union College. She moved to a holler’ in Stinking Creek to teach, first in a one room school, and eventually at Dewitt Elementary. Rose was small in stature, but what she lacked in size she made up for in heart and passion. She taught hundreds of students in her education career which spanned nearly five decades. Rose taught at several one room schools in the Dewitt area, Dewitt Elementary, and Dewitt Baptist Church Sunday School, often with a Bible on her desk and a paddle at her side. She loved God, her family, her students, and this community. 

Rose Garland Cole 

Rose was no stranger to generosity, and her own family undoubtedly influenced her kindness. Her brothers Beckham, Charles, and James Garland had each contributed to her education; they helped to pay the tuition for Rose and their sister Etta to attend Union College. All five siblings would eventually graduate and teach in Knox County during their careers. 

It was Rose Garland Cole who motivated me to return to Washington, D.C. with the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign in recent weeks. Her devotion to community influenced me profoundly. She had always told me to stand up for others—a lesson that I had almost forgotten. She wanted to positively influence her students and family. 

Poverty has a powerful influence on society. It prevents access to basic needs including food, clean water, access to healthcare, and education with no respect for geographic boundaries. I stumbled in on Cameron Mills speaking at Knox Central High School on Tuesday, and he mentioned the difference between the poverty we see in our community and extreme poverty abroad. He reminded students that many families living in extreme poverty don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and there are no organizations there to help. 

People here struggle with paying for doctor visits, medical procedures, and medication, but children in developing nations don’t even have these options. Did you know that every 20 seconds a child dies of a vaccine-preventable disease? Polio, measles, pneumococcal disease, and rotavirus routinely take the lives of children around the world. Did you know that $20 can vaccinate a child against these diseases for an entire lifetime? Every child deserves the right to a healthy life, and parents shouldn’t live in fear of losing their children to vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Image credit: GFWC 

Last week I had the pleasure to speak the Interclub dinner for the Barbourville Woman’s Study Club, Barbourville Junior Woman’s Study Club, and Barbourville YoungerWoman’s Club. The clubs collected enough donations in one meeting to vaccinate five children for a lifetime, and they completed 56 advocacy actions to let Representative Hal Rogers, Senator Rand Paul, and Senator Mitch McConnell know that they support funding for global vaccine access. Those three clubs are a testament to the collective impact that a group of individuals can have when devoted to a common cause. 

Robert F. Kennedy said, “Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills, misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.” Rose worked to improve education in an area overrun with poverty, and that would be her legacy. What will be this generation’s legacy, and what will your legacy be?

Jenny McCarthy: When Views are Dangerous

July 20, 2013
Shot@Life colleague Frank Gilbert and I in Washington, D.C. 

One of the many liberties of being an American citizen, is freedom of speech.  I believe everyone has the right to believe as they choose, and without fear of retribution for voicing their beliefs.  As a journalist, I am privileged to write at least once a week on varying topics with very little public backlash.  My intentions as a writer is to not persuade my readers to follow my beliefs, but inspire them to find their own.  The past few days social media has been abuzz with talk about The View hiring Jenny McCarthy.  As a champion for the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign, I shuttered.  When you advocate for vaccine access you don’t want or need a staunch anti-vaccine spokesperson in mainstream media.   

Jenny McCarthy
Photo Credit: AP/Victoria Will

In my personal opinion, she is actress who wanted to be perceived as a medical expert.  She spewed propaganda and altered public opinion regarding vaccine protocol with no scientific evidence to back up her claim.  That is just my opinion, and we all know the old saying, opinions are like $%^@!
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#, everyone has one.  I have read piece after piece chastising The View for hiring her, and that makes me equally uneasy.  I am a writer, and I don’t believe in censorship.  Jenny McCarthy can vaccinate herself and her own children at her personal discretion.  Instead of creating a public outcry to have her terminated, why don’t we call on the public to educate themselves?  I feel she is exploiting her position as a celebrity to promote anti-vaccination, when she is not a trained medical professional.  Where is the line drawn between someone exercising their right to free speech and posing a potential national threat?  

Germs do not carry passports, and unvaccinated populations are at risk.   
The Journal of Infectious Disease documented the costs of a single measles outbreak in Arizona.  It was tracked down to one unvaccinated individual entering the U.S..  The financial burden was nearly $800,000, and seven individuals contracted measles.  Measles is a vaccine preventable disease, these costs were completely unnecessary.  Americans often forget about diseases such as polio, whooping cough, and Hepatitis A and B because they are routinely vaccinated against them here.  Did you know there was an outbreak of an multidrug resistant strain of tuberculosis in Wisconsin recently?  The story was lost amidst mainstream media.  You can read more here. The City had to ask the state for nearly 5 million dollars to manage the outbreak.  

It is easy to take for granted the efficacy and availability of vaccines.  People forget that germs travel faster and more efficiently than people.
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  I have a good friend who is a pilot.  He frequently messages me during his travels.  In the past month I have gotten messages from South Africa, Hong Kong, Italy, China, Great Britain, and Canada.  I am sure there are a few countries I have neglected to mention.  He might be in Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Fairbanks all in a 24 hour span.
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  How easy would it be for him to spread a contagious disease?  Vaccines should not be treated as a luxury.  Vaccines have saved countless lives, unimaginable medical expenses, and numerous hours of medical man power. In the 2020 period of the coronavirus outbreak, a vaccine is certainly needed now more than ever as this unprecedented situation is claiming lives and livelihoods alike. Businesses are going under in many industries and the economies of the world are suffering as a result. Hopefully a cure will emerge soon but, in the meantime, businesses are doing all they can to stay afloat, including seeking out small business help for financial assistance through these trying times. 

The Panic Virus
Photo Credit: Seth Mnookin 

The greatest threat to man kind, is the one that we don’t perceive as possible.  Educate yourself by reading peer reviewed journals and talking to medical professionals.  A great resource regarding vaccine safety and the alleged autism-vaccine connection is Seth Mnookin‘s book The Panic Virus. I strongly advise you to do your own research when deciding about vaccines or any other potentially life altering decision.  You have more than the freedom to choose, you have the freedom to educate yourself!  I hope The View and Jenny McCarthy both take their duties to the American public seriously.  Public platforms and celebrity status shouldn’t be used to jeopardize public health.  We are blessed with the privilege of free speech but we should always be mindful of the harm it might cause.  

Happy Sunny Saturday,


How close are we? This close….

March 1, 2013

Polio has been 99% eradicated around the World.  How exciting would it be for our generation to say that we saw the end of polio just as the previous generation saw the eradication of small pox?  There are three countries in which polio still exists, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.    The wild polio virus still circulates in those countries.  Humanitarians risk their lives in those countries to administer vaccines, what will you risk?  Earlier this week a Pakistani police officer sacrificed his life while providing security to a United Nations funded vaccination team. Every child deserves a Shot@Life regardless of where they were born.  Hopefully the global eradication of polio is just of first of many victories for World health.  

There were 223 cases of polio reported in 2012 by the World Health Organization.  Germs do not carry passports and equates to 223 opportunities for polio to enter the U.S. through an unvaccinated population.  We have seen the resurgence of measles and whooping cough in the United States due to individuals not being vaccinated.  Geographic boundaries once confined us to a region but we are now a global society.  It is easier for germs to travel than we can with our passports.

Help show the World how close we are to the eradication of polio.  Lend your voice.
Rotary International started the campaign End Polio Now and in partnership with the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign, we are that much closer to eradicating a disease that once devastated our Nation.

The Best Of the World’s Biggest Commercial from End Polio Now on Vimeo.

Vaccination: More than JUST a shot

January 27, 2013

As a mother, I can remember all the important milestones in my sons life.  The first time he said, “Mama,” we were driving through Boise, Idaho.  His first steps were in our living room.  He stole my heart for the first time, the very moment I laid eyes on him.  I am hopeful I will get to see many more milestones in his life.  His college graduation, marriage, and eventually the birth of his own child, are  just a few I would be overjoyed to see.  There are millions of children and parents who won’t get a chance to see just one of those milestones, because they do not have access to vital vaccines.  Measles, polio, rotavirus, and pneumonia are just a few of the diseases which could be prevented with very simple vaccines.

I believe that vaccines are a personal choice for each parent.  I never second guessed my choice to vaccinate my son Gabriel.  I just hope that if a parent chooses to not vaccinate, they would make an educated decision with their healthcare provider and without the aid of anti-vaccination propaganda.  We lived outside of the United States in Bogota, Colombia.  Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, measles,  yellow fever, and malaria are all prevalent in that country.  Malaria is the only disease which cannot be prevented with a vaccine.  We went to Bogota completely prepared.  Parents in other nations would be willing to walk miles for a chance at getting vaccines, while people here often take those opportunities for granted.  I was saddened recently to hear the story of a father in the U.S. who had denied his daughter access to the flu vaccine, and she died shortly after from complications of the flu.  It is heartbreaking to believe that her life could have possibly been saved with the use of the flu vaccine.  Last year 26 children died of flu complications in the U.S. alone.  That could have been 26 chances at high school proms or drivers licenses that were lost to something as simple as the flu.  There was 1.5 million children who died in developing nations of diseases which could have been prevented through vaccines.  

Gabe and I will the Presidential Palace guards in front of the Colombia Presidential Palace in Bogota
The United Nations Foundation developed the Shot@Life program as a grassroots movement to advocate for and provide vaccinations to children around the world.  They work in conjunction with the GAVI Alliance. They provide vaccination opportunities through various other programs and organizations such as the World Health Organization, World Bank, and United Nations Children’s Fund.  There are so many ways to help through both donation and advocacy.  Did you realize that $20 would cover the cost of vaccination for measles, polio, pneumonia, and rotavirus in one child?  

It has taken me 30 years to discover my true passion in life which is advocacy.  I would love to give a child at shot figuring out their passion too!  What would you give a child a shot at?  Please read more about Shot@Life at their website