On Monday, May 12, a free webinar on the role of nurses in vaccination decision-making will be held in Paris to mark International Nurses Day.
The line-up of speakers is impressive, with experts from the Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation in the US; the Mother & Baby Clinic Group in South Africa; and Melody Butler of Nurses Who Vaccinate from the US.
I’ll be tuning in. But while it’s great to have speakers from around the world for an international meeting, it reminded me how few vocal immunisation advocates we have in Europe.
Yes, national and EU authorities make a lot of effort and the vaccine manufacturers fund projects such as Vaccines Today, but after that it’s a pretty thin crowd.
Compare this with the United States, Canada or Australia where non-governmental organisations are active on Twitter, Facebook and on blogs.
These are generally volunteer-led groups, founded by parents, patients and health professionals who are proud to say that vaccines are an essential part of public health protection and deserve to be championed.
Wanted: Vaccination Champions
Vaccination is something of an orphan when it comes to health advocacy. The decline in vaccine-preventable diseases has led to complacency and, to be blunt, measles and whooping cough do not have the established community of advocates raise awareness of chronic conditions like diabetes or high-fatality diseases like cancer.
This is because of vaccination. We see more diabetes than polio because there’s a vaccine against the latter.
Yet polio, measles and whooping cough can be fatal. And if our complacency leaves the door open to these contagious diseases, they will infect higher numbers and more people will die from avoidable illnesses.
A handful of individuals – usually parents who have been directly affected by a vaccine-preventable disease – lead campaigns locally to raise awareness and improve access to vaccines. But much more is needed.
We need a broad coalition – an Immunity Community – to make the case for vaccines; to let everyone know that even though vaccines are routine, they are essential.
The message has to come from as many sources as possible: doctors, nurses, businesses (not just vaccine companies), charities and governments.
Most potential advocates don’t require much convincing. It just means stating their views more loudly and more often.
- Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and their professional bodies already support immunisation – they just don’t shout it from the rooftops.
- The vast majority of parents vaccinate their own children – but most are shy about encouraging others who are unsure whether to immunise.
- Companies like British Airways and Proctor & Gamble, are donating vaccines as part of the corporate social responsibility campaigns – others can take a leaf from their book.
When outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases occur, ad hoc coalitions of advocates assemble to fight the epidemic. But why wait until then?
Ask yourself what you can do to encourage others to follow recommended vaccine schedules. Start today. Prevention is better than cure.
Read a guest post by Melody Butler, founder of Nurses Who Vaccinate
Check out this article by a Canadian nurse
Look at how Australian campaigners tackled an anti-vaccine activist
Read a doctor’s view on why his colleagues should promote vaccination
See what pharmacists have to say about immunisation