Vaccinations Matter: The Shot @ Life 28 Days of Impact

“It’s so strange to us that vaccinations can be controversial in the US,” the doctor said to us, shaking his head ever so slightly. And when I looked around at the clinic on the outskirts of a dusty, dirt road town many bumpy miles from downtown Addis Ababa in October, seeing what he saw every day, I understood completely.

We saw benches lined with patients waiting for this test or that treatment, taking days off from working the fields that they could hardly afford.

We saw the bare, calloused feet of mothers who had trudged 3 miles or more up the road with one child on their back and one walking hand-in-hand, just to give them the check-ups and vaccines that would give them a better chance of surviving infancy than their cousins had.

We met the health care workers in the clinic outposts, who work in structures barely the size of a two-car garage, fervently passionate for reaching patients in the towns just too far to get to the main clinic.

We peered closely at the charts on the walls, each completed with pride and remarkable detail, indicating just how many people were vaccinated in a community from month to month–and, concurrently, how many fewer people died  from tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis, HIV.

And then most poignant to me, we talked to mothers who taught me that what we all want for our children is not actually the same. It’s easy to say “happiness” when you can take health for granted.

It’s easy to imagine your child living past five when that’s the rule and not the exception.

Mothers and newborn waiting for vaccinations and basic infant care

Last August, when I participated in the Blogust effort from the UN Foundations Shot @ Life to help raise money for their remarkably effective efforts, it was two months before I had ever stepped foot on the African continent and seen for myself just why their work around the world is so meaningful. I have stared into the eyes of a child who would otherwise not be living, and said to myself, “this is what vaccinations do.”

So today, my participation in their 28 Days of Impact blogging effort feels that much more personal. Which is why I feel I can ask you today to do a little more than just leave a comment.

It’s not a lot more effort…just a little. Please email your member of Congress (template already made–super easy) and ask him or her (lots of hers now!) to make sure that global healthcare and vaccines are a priority. Let them him or  know that as a parent, and as a human being, that this matters.



I’ve written before about why supporting the education, health and livelihood of mothers and children in other countries isn’t just a good thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. It’s not about “over there” versus “here” because we’re all connected. It all helps create stronger allies, better trade partners, fewer wars, more global stability.

But more specifically, this is what vaccinations do:

I’m writing as a part of Shot@Life’s ’28 Days of Impact’ Campaign. A follow up to Blogust to raise awareness for global vaccines and the work being done by Shot@Life and their partners to help give children around the world a shot at a healthy life. Each day in February, you can read another impactful story on global childhood vaccines. Tomorrow, don’t miss Jeanette Kaplun’s post on Hispana Global. See the entire list of bloggers and learn more at, and follow the hashtag #vaximpact.

All photos ©Liz Gumbinner, from the ONEMoms 2012 trip to Ethiopia


38 thoughts on “Vaccinations Matter: The Shot @ Life 28 Days of Impact”

  1. Thank you for sharing Liz! What a picture you’ve painted for us who can’t see it first hand. You are so right, ‘It’s not about “over there” versus “here” because we’re all connected.’ Someday I want to do more but for now, I will write and share.

    1. If you’re writing and sharing, that’s your “more.” Anything someone does counts. Thank you Suzanne.

      1. Liz, that’s exactly it! “If you’re writing and sharing, that’s your “more.”” Perfectly expressed.

  2. Great post. The vaccination “controversy” in this country infuriates me from a public health standpoint. But when you also consider what we voluntarily shun in the face of those who would do anything to have it… well, it adds another level to the words selfish and self-absorbed. Thanks for shining some light on this important issue.

    1. Thank you Liz, for another awesome reminder that we should be humble in our lives, and showing us paths to reach out and help someone.

      Could not agree more!

  3. The public health impact of vaccination is one of my top reasons for devoting my time and energy to Shot@Life. Thank you for providing more personal examples of the effectiveness of vaccines in creating a healthier world overall!

  4. this post speaks to me so intimately (as you know) as I think of my own Ethiopian born children.

    It is so important that we remember the saving power of vaccines and that in too many places, death of children is preventable–clean water, vaccines.

    My son spent 4 days in the hospital in Addis as we waited to bring him home because he was dehydrated from diarrhea. The idea that diarrhea kills so many small children breaks my heart. Allowing diseases we have created vaccines for kill so many small children is a crime.

    This is such an important cause and message. Thank you for spreading it.

    1. Thank you so much Dawn. I always love when you share your stories.

      And you’re right. We’re not always talking polio…we’re talking diarrhea. There’s no good reason for it.

  5. You summed up exactly what I experienced in Uganda. Check out the book Panic Virus. It’s offers great perspective and insight into the vaccine controversy here (which maddens me!).

    1. Thank you, I will. It maddens me too. Especially in light of the disbarring of the British doctor who faked all the negative vaccination research. It’s hard to let go of tightly held beliefs, even in in the face of evidence to the contrary.

  6. As I went to write to my representative, I found that my district has been carved up so many ways that there were potentially 3 representatives I could claim as my own. All districts within a quarter mile of my house. it took me more than 10 minutes just to get to the form where I could send communication to the one representing me.

    Having now completed the message you’ve inspired, I have another to write about being more accessible to your constituents. Grr. Thanks for the prompting. 🙂

  7. Liz, your post brought tears to my eyes. The photo of the moms waiting at the clinic with their babies, wanting so badly to give them every shot in the world and knowing how very real the risks are for them, is so moving and memorable. And yes, we’re all connected.

    1. They were astounding and amazing mothers. It really gives new meaning to going out of your way for your kids.

  8. I’ll be honest, I’ve not been overly impressed with the responses I’ve received from my Representative or my Congress person…BUT…I’m willing to give it another try. As someone who has studies issues of public health, it humbles me to think how something so simple as clean water and vaccinations can have such a huge impact on the livelihood of so many lives…young and old.

    1. ” Studies conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation show that 94% of congressional staff members polled say that emails have a lot or some influence.”

      I can only tell you that my sister-in-law, who was an aid to various members of congress, read every email and letter and the representatives sure as hell knew when their inboxes were piling up with constituent requests on a single issue.

      Thanks Alyssa!

  9. sometimes it’s just too easy to take for granted the types of resources we are afforded here. this abundance of resources is the only reason we even have a ‘vaccination controversy.’ it’s like we didn’t have enough sick kids around to remind us of why they were invented. our parents tend to find the controversy ridiculous as well, since they remember having peers with polio.

    i have a number of friends who are on the other side of the controversy, and argue against vaccinations. while they’ve been successful in keeping their families healthy (which gives them more ammo for their arguments), i think that everyone should remember that the main reasons they’re able to be successful is their access to fancy probiotics, expensive natural supplements, and excellent healthcare to fall back on should they end up sick at any point.

    1. Good points, Sarah. The other thing they all forget about is that the reason their unvaccinated kids do not catch those diseases is because virtually everyone around them IS vaccinated (called herd immunity). For children who are immune compromised or cannot legitimately be vaccinated, that is what keeps them from becoming deathly ill.

  10. Signed, stamped, in the mailbox and shared on FB. Thanks so much for your efforts on behalf of our sisters around the world!

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  12. Thank you for keeping this in the spotlight. It’s good to be reminded of the things we take for granted. Beautiful photos, as well. Together with your words, they have an incredible impact.

  13. You are right, Liz. We take so very much for granted. I had an acquaintance some years ago who decided that she was not going to vaccinate her child because she felt the risk of something going wrong was one she did want to take. I was so angry at her and her privilege. She had the luxury to make that choice precisely because everyone around her in her affluent world had chosen to make her child’s world safer by vaccinating their own. We can’t do anything about those who would CHOOSE not to take advantage of the vaccines at their disposal. But we sure can help those who are literally dying for them.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

  14. Thank you Liz. It’s a reminder to me this morning that “my reality” is not the fullness of reality. I am so grateful for your writing.

  15. Those pictures tell so much– especially the chart keeping track of the vaccines. This is a very real issue- for moms, just like us- trying to do best by their children. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  16. Thanks for making it “real” by sharing your emotions and those pictures. I agree that we put a much bigger emphasis on happiness than health…ah, perspective…

  17. Thank you for sharing! I’m a firm believer in vaccinations, they wouldn’t have been invented if there weren’t a need and am constantly appalled at those parents who think they know more than the medical community. thank you for reminding us that what we argue over in this country is a privilege and something others strive so badly for in others.

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