Becoming an Immunization Advocate: NIIW and Beyond

When I first started working in the world of immunizations, I presumed I would help people get vaccinated, provide resources to healthcare professionals, and be an expert community resource. Yes, we do all of those things, every day, at Immunize Nevada. But what I didn’t realize was the majority of my daily work would also include using my voice to dispel myths, remind people of diseases seen long ago, help parents navigate credible information on the internet, speak up online as a fact-producing warrior, and more. And yes, we do all of those things too.

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations and to improve the health of children two years old or younger. Since 1994, hundreds of communities across the United States have joined together to celebrate the critical role vaccination plays in protecting our children, communities, and public health. NIIW, set for April 22-29 will be celebrated as part of World Immunization Week (WIW), an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO).

NIIW is also a time to reflect on the importance of speaking up for vaccines, for science, and for the vulnerable babies, seniors, and the sick who cannot be vaccinated. They not only need the community protection your vaccines provide, they also need your voice.

What can you do during NIIW and beyond to speak up for science? Follow the hashtags #NIIW and #ivax2protect for ideas, and here are 10 of our favorite ways to get you started:

1. Follow credible sources, a couple of our favorites are: Dr. Paul Offit’s weekly column with The Daily Beast and STAT offers daily health and medicine reporting. There are also a number of blogs participating in the CDC Blog-A-Thon, all with expert contributors.

2. Regularly share pro-vaccine information with others. Use social media to make the world better! Get social with Immunize Nevada and spread immunization facts and messages.

3. Memorize 5 myth-busting facts. Correcting false information is critical. Even getting just a few more folks credible, pro-vaccine information can make a world of difference.

4. Get vaccinated. Immunizations aren’t just for kids. All adults need vaccines, but pregnant women, caregivers, and those with chronic health conditions are especially vulnerable. Take the CDC vaccine quiz to see what vaccines you may need.

5. Thank your friends for talking about vaccines. When you see someone stand up for science or speak up about the importance of vaccinating, thank them. Hopefully it will encourage them to be vocal again, as we need more people joining the conversation.

6. Let your elected officials know how you feel about health policies. Writing or calling your representatives (state and federal) is a great way to make your voice as a constituent heard, and make an impact. It does matter.

7. Shop online at AmazonSmile. This is a simple and automatic way for you to support Immunize Nevada every time you shop, at no cost to you. Go to http://smile.amazon.com/ and select Immunize Nevada as your charity of choice.

8. Share your personal stories. Your story could change a mind, or even save a life. Have you or someone you know been affected by vaccine-preventable disease? Do you have a new baby, grandparent, or immunocompromised child or adult in your life that you want to protect? Contact us at info@immunizenevada.org

9. Pledge an amount of time or money or both. Join a committee or sign-up to volunteer for an event. Set a monthly recurring donation by joining Immunize Nevada’s Team Vaccine Giving Society.

10. Commit regular, random acts of kindness. Those who help others in their communities have lower levels of depression and stress. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects those around you. Win-win!

Stay connected to Immunize Nevada on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Heidi Parker, MA

As executive director of Immunize Nevada, Heidi Parker, MA leads and engages a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, member organizations and funders so they are passionate about vaccines and access to preventive health care across Nevada’s rural, urban and frontier communities. Bringing over two decades of experience in nonprofit program management, fundraising and marketing, she has dedicated her career to being able to affect her community in a positive way, whether working with Head Start families, victims of violence, college students or Nevadans needing immunizations.