Worth a shot: COPH students advocate for childhood immunization on Capitol Hill

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Vaccines and immunizations have become a hot—and somewhat controversial—topic in the United States recently. But despite the debate, childhood vaccines remain an important part of maintaining herd immunity among the general population.

Herd immunity occurs when a significant portion of the population is vaccinated against a disease, thereby limiting its spread.

Katherine Lesser, a second-year MPH student in the USF College of Public Health with concentrations in epidemiology and global communicable disease, and Jessica Garcia, a second-year MPH student with concentrations in epidemiology and global health, have gotten involved with the Shot@Life initiative in order to advocate for childhood vaccines.

The United Nations Foundation created the Shot@Life initiative with the goal of making childhood vaccines a worldwide norm. It focuses primarily on vaccines for measles, polio, rotavirus and pneumonia, and works on a daily basis to engage important people within state and federal governments on the issue of childhood vaccinations. The initiative organizes many fundraising campaigns throughout the year, and raised over $575 million for childhood vaccines in the last year.

Shot@Life is an initiative created by the UN Foundation that focuses on the increase of childhood vaccinations around the world. Garcia is pictured far left and Lesser far right. (Photo courtesy of Lesser and Garcia)

Lesser, who got involved with the organization through her passion for vaccination, and Garcia, who found the organization through a flyer in the COPH, both participated in Shot@Life’s annual summit. This is the organization’s culminating event in Washington D.C. where its members, referred to as champions, advocate for immunization.

“Each year, over 100 champions from across the country gather in the Capitol to advocate for childhood vaccines,” said Lesser, “Attendees hear from industry professionals about vaccine progress and innovation, as well as the ins and outs of advocacy work in D.C.”

Lesser and Garcia participated in the Shot@Life summit this year on Capitol Hill, where they were able to engage government representatives on the topic of childhood vaccines. (Photo courtesy of Lesser and Garcia)

At this year’s summit, Lesser and Garcia met with multiple Florida state representatives and staff members in order to assure them that Shot@Life’s initiative to provide childhood vaccines worldwide is still worthy of their support.

Garcia believes recent current events have illustrated the importance of immunization and why Shot@Life’s mission is so crucial on a national and global level.

“With the recent measles outbreaks occurring nationwide, it just shows how vital it is for public health professionals to advocate [for the protection of children] from vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Garcia.

Lesser agrees and finds encouragement in the fact that their involvement in the initiative holds great importance in protecting children and our future from preventable diseases.

“Shot@Life and the summit are awesome ways to connect with other champions and meet in person with both congressional members and their staff to raise awareness and secure support for this incredibly important cause,” said Lesser.

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health