When parents in the US state of North Carolina learn that 1.5 million children worldwide die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases, they don’t just shake their heads in disbelief, they reach into their pocket books and become Vaccine Ambassadors. Through a novel programme, families visiting select paediatric clinics in the state have become advocates for increasing vaccine access to children living in parts of the world where this basic healthcare service is not always easy to find.
In partnership with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Vaccine Ambassadors links parents and children receiving care at their local doctor’s office with a global health initiative. A small donation (as little as US$2) is collected at each visit and goes towards the purchase of vaccines and immunisation services for children. US$2 can purchase DPT vaccines for 6 children through this programme. 100% of donations (minus any credit card processing fees) go to the Pan American Health Organization for the purchase and delivery of needed vaccines.
Vaccine Ambassador pioneer Dr. Kimberly Gush, Owner and Medical Director at Village Pediatrics of Chapel Hill, incorporated the programme into her practices as a way to help her own community and to support families living in areas of the world where vaccines are not as plentiful.
"At our practice we have some families who prefer to delay or decline vaccination fearing side effects that cause neuro-developmental or immune system problems. The Vaccine Ambassadors programme provides us a very non-confrontational talking point to remind these families about the value of immunisation and about how fortunate we are to live in a country and a community with all of these resources. When you change the life of a child you also change the world," she says.
A new conversation
Designed by healthcare providers and parents as a way to increase vaccine coverage to children lacking this service, Jackie Kaufman and partners Dr. Jacob Lohr, Professor and former Chief of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC), and Eric Montross, retired basketball player teamed up together to found Vaccine Ambassadors*.
"Vaccine Ambassadors is an alternative way to have a conversation with a family about the value of vaccines. Instead of just talking about vaccine safety, there is also a discussion about what happens in parts of the world without this life-saving service. The response from parents and children alike has been phenomenal," states co-founder and Executive Director Jackie Kaufman.
By partnering with a global leader with over 100 years of expertise in global health, Vaccine Ambassadors relies on PAHO to select and deliver vaccines to areas most in need. The initial funds of this programme are being used for the purchase of basic vaccines for children living in Haiti.
Vaccine Ambassadors is being piloted in the state of North Carolina with a long-term goal of expanding nationally and potentially internationally. Through Vaccine Ambassadors, every time a child receives healthcare at their local paediatrician’s office another child in the world will benefit as well.
“The health of every child is a shared responsibility. I am extremely thankful that vaccines are part of my children’s routine health care and feel very strongly that every child should receive this same protection. Many children live in areas of the world where healthcare services are not easily accessible. The ability to receive vaccines is very much a matter of life and death,” says Kaufman.
We invite every parent to join us and play an active role in protecting all children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Not receiving care at a Vaccine Ambassadors clinic? Becoming a Vaccine Ambassador is just one click away!
*Vaccine Ambassadors, LLC under the Fund for Children and Youth 501 (c) 3.