Mackenzie Melton | WithinReach WA
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Spread joy, not influenza, this holiday season!

Protect your whole family from influenza this season by getting your flu shot! Here’s a run-down on all you need to know about staying healthy this season with a few changes that are important to note: shots only and new recommendations for people with egg allergies.

New for the 2016-17 season: The most important change for this flu season is that only the injectable vaccine is available and recommended. That means everyone (over 6 months of age) gets a flu shot this year instead of nasal spray. A few other important things to note, flu vaccines have been updated to match the circulating viruses out there and recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed. If you have an egg allergy here’s a link to more information, and of course always talk to your health care provider if you have questions!

Flu vaccine is safe: The vaccine is given to millions of people in the US and around the world every year. The strains may change from one year to the next but vaccines are always thoroughly tested and are safe.

The flu shot can’t give you the flu: It’s impossible to get the flu from the flu shot because the vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses. A small number of people experience side effects like achy muscles but this is simply the immune system responding to the vaccine and showing your body that the vaccine is working!

You need the vaccine every year: You won’t be protected from last years shot; there are always new strains of flu circulating. The composition of the flu vaccine is looked at each year and always updated to ensure the best chance of matching the flu viruses that are circulating.

Anyone can get the flu: One of the most common reasons for not getting vaccinated is “I’ve never had the flu before.” There’s no such thing as natural immunity to the flu; it’s best to get vaccinated each year.

Flu vaccine protects the community and you: It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s also about protecting your colleagues, community, family, elderly, those immunocompromised and those too young to get the vaccine. Did you know that you can carry and pass on the virus to others without having any symptoms yourself?

Healthy diets won’t prevent flu: Your diet could help boost your immune system, but eating well and taking vitamins won’t protect you from flu. The best protection is the flu vaccine.

Pregnant women can and should be vaccinated: Pregnant women can get vaccinated at any stage of pregnancy. Having the vaccination while pregnant also helps protect your baby from flu over the first few months of life.

And the extra awesome super-duper bonus, drumroll please…. Flu vaccine is free and it’s very easy to get vaccinated: Your health insurance will pay for the full cost of the vaccine and you can get it by simply walking into most local pharmacies – no appointments, no copays, no excuses! Use the Vaccine Finder to locate a clinic or pharmacy near you. You can also connect with us through or by calling the Family Health Hotline 1-800-322-2588 to find a free clinic near you!

Tags: flu   flu shot   Flu Vaccine   

Top Ten Ways to Be A Positive Voice For Vaccines!

Adapted from our colleagues at Immunize Nevada, here are some tips for expressing your gratitude for vaccines in Washington State.
1. Join the Immunity Community. If you live in Bellingham, Spokane, North Kitsap, South Snohomish, or Thurston Counties, become a Parent Advocate at your child(ren)’s school. Learn more and sign up today.
2. Get your flu vaccine. It’s not too late! People who haven’t been vaccinated against flu still have time to get their vaccine before the season reaches its peak in Washington (likely February). Bring along a friend, elderly neighbor, or babysitter to get vaccinated with you! Find a location near you.

3. Get up to date on your own vaccines. Check if you are up to date in MyIR. Haven’t used MyIR yet? Sign up by visiting the Washington State Department of Health’s website and choose Option 1. Once you are in the system, you can print off your recommended immunizations and bring them to your healthcare provider or pharmacist. While you’re at it, check to make sure your kids and your family members are up to date as well.

4. Share your immunization story. Why are you passionate about vaccines? Whether you’ve personally experienced a vaccine preventable disease, or someone you love has been impacted, sharing your story with us to use on our website and social media is a powerful way to be an advocate. Contact us at

5. Get Social. We need people like you to spread positive immunization messages within your social networks. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and share our messages and images.

6. Advocate for immunizations to friends and family.  Vaccines aren’t a “taboo” topic – they’re an important part of preventive health. Have the courage to ask family members if they’re up to date on their vaccines, if they got their annual flu vaccine, or if they’re planning to immunize their newborn. And remember, most people fully vaccinate on time. Here’s a great article on how to approach the subject using the HEART method for talking about immunization with friends.

7. Become a member of the Immunization Action Coalition of Washington (IACW). The IACW meets quarterly to learn about and collaborate on a variety of immunization topics. Recent topics have included: HPV prevention, vaccine hesitancy, and global health initiatives. Additionally, there is a monthly newsletter with hot topics, resources, and news articles to keep you up-to-date!  To learn more and become a member, email:

8. Take action. Your help in promoting vaccines in Washington State will help keep our community healthy and decrease the transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases. Sign up for our Immunization Action Alert to be notified when you can lend your voice to advocating for immunizations in Washington.

9. Write a letter to the editor. Let your pro-vaccine stance be known to your community and elected officials. Contact us if you need help with any ideas or templates.

10. Thank an Immunizer. Next time you are at your healthcare provider’s office or the pharmacy, thank an immunizer. These are the people that protect health by vaccinating, and people often forget to thank someone holding a needle!

Tags: IACW   Immunity Community   immunizations   pro-vax   vaccine-preventable diseases   vaccines   Vax Northwest   VaxNW   Washington state   

Tis’ the Season!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” This quote by the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead is truly apropos to a recent partnership that WithinReach and many others have been involved in!

Less than a month ago, one of our Community Partnership Associates at WithinReach, Jefferson Rose, was contacted by Ellie Marsh, President of the Western Washington Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (WW-NAHN), about a school in the Edmonds School District that had several dozen children that were either unvaccinated or under-vaccinated due to lack of access to a medical home. These children needed a number of required vaccinations by January 4th in order to continue attending school.

Jefferson passed along this information to the Immunization and Healthy Connections Teams at WithinReach, which quickly mobilized to see what we could do to get these children vaccinated and connected to health insurance. Through our relationship with the Snohomish Health District we connected the health department and WW-NAHN together, and this is where the magic truly happened!

I’m excited to report that the WW-NAHN, in conjunction with Spruce Elementary School, WithinReach, Snohomish Health District, and the University of Washington School Of Nursing, hosted an immunization clinic for these families on Wednesday, December 16, 2015.

All vaccines were provided for free by the Snohomish Health District, six nursing students from the UW were on hand to give all of the injections to children, and WithinReach’s multi-lingual in-person assisters – Maricruz and Irina — were on hand to sign families up for health insurance, and provide other community resources for families!

As a result of all of these efforts, we learned that nearly half of the students that were previously identified as out of compliance with their immunizations were able to show proof of the required immunizations, and the other half received all the vaccinations necessary to stay in school.

Thank you to all the amazing partners who rallied together to protect kids from vaccine-preventable diseases and get them signed up for health insurance.



Tags: community resources   immunizations   Partnership   School   Snohomish Health District   Spruce Elementary School   University of Washington School Of Nursing   vaccines   Western Washington Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses   WW-NAHN   

Have a HEART When You Talk About Vaccines

Do you find yourself being inundated with information in the media about immunizations these days? Do you want to speak out, but just don’t know what to say, or how to say it? Measles this, mumps that. Personal belief exemptions – are they good or bad? What do I do if my child’s school vaccination rate is really low? How can I talk to other parents about vaccinations? What can I do?
So many questions are circulating around the internet and social media. Friends that I haven’t talked to in years have been coming out of the woodwork with questions, or wanting to know how to get involved. The silent majority of parents (71% in WA) that immunize are starting to become louder and want their voices to be heard.
At WithinReach, through our partnership with Vax Northwest, we’ve developed a program we call the Immunity Community where we teach parents to become immunization advocates in their communities, schools, child cares, or parents’ groups and to have a respectful, honest conversation about immunizations. We encourage parents to speak from their HEART and we’ve developed and tested 5 simple steps you can take the next time you find yourself in a conversation with your barista, PTA president, etc.
When you are having a conversation about vaccines, try the H-E-A-R-T (Hear, Empathize, Analyze, Resources, Tell) Method:
1. Hear: The first and best thing you can do is to really listen to her concerns and questions. Really hear what her fears are about vaccines. Organize your thoughts before answering her questions.
2. Empathize: Start your response with an emotional acknowledgement of his feelings. Address his investment in the issue. He’s put a lot of thought into this problem. Give him the credit he deserves for being the concerned parent he is. Example: “You’ve put so much thought into this. I think it’s great that you care so much about your child’s health.”
3. Analyze: Ask questions to understand where they are getting their information from and what concerns them. Example: “I’ve been researching vaccines, too. Where did you hear that from?”
4. Resources: Answer her emotional concerns with knowledge and specific information (check out our FAQ page for some of the top questions people have about vaccines). Facts, paired with emotion, win parents over! Example: “That’s very interesting. What I’ve read on the Internet is pretty different. There’s a nonprofit organization called Every Child By Two that talks about how vaccines are safe and how they protect kids from dangerous diseases like whooping cough.”(Then insert talking points from the FAQs page to answer her specific questions.)
5. Tell: Conclude your points with another emotional statement that sums up what benefits you gain from vaccinating your child. Example: “After I read both sides of the argument, I decided to vaccinate my children. I get so worried when my baby’s sick, and I can’t bear the thought of her getting sick with something that could be avoided. For me, vaccines are all about prevention.”
Repeat this method with every concern she raises. Make sure to start over at the “Hear” stage to ensure you are answering her specific questions. Even if she shares an anecdotal story of her own, really listen to her fear and try to understand her root concern.

Vaccines are important, but they are not something to lose a friendship over. Don’t forget to respect your friend’s opinion, and trust that he will do the same. Here is a good phrase to help you get out of a tough conversation: “Thank you for sharing your opinions with me. I’m just glad we both care about protecting our kids’ health. Thank you for being so passionate.”

Now just smile, squeeze her arm, and divert the conversation to something you both can agree on. Remember, you might not sway your friends today, but you may have sparked a new way of thinking about vaccines. You have become an information source they can turn to with questions later.

If you want to learn more about Vax Northwest and the Immunity Community or want to become involved visit:


Tags: Community Health   Immunity Community   immunizations   kids health   Measles   mumps   Personal Belief Exemptions   Public Health   vaccine conversations   vaccines   Vax Northwest   

A (not so) Invisible Threat

Invisible Threat is an eye-opening 40-minute documentary produced by California high school students that explores the science of vaccination and how fears and misperceptions have led some parents to make dangerous decisions.   In recognition of the national launch on May 1 of the Invisible Threat movement, we are participating in a blog relay to raise awareness of this important issue.  Each day a different blogger will be discussing their personal perspective of the film as part of our 10-day countdown to a kick-off event with national legislators at the Capitol Visitors’ Center in Washington, DC.  Follow along to find out how you can join us in this movement, arrange for a local screening, and continue our fight against infectious diseases.

We at WithinReach think watching the Invisible Threat documentary is especially important right now with the resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases in our communities. Measles is on the rise in WA, and in 2011 we had the largest pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic in 60 years. In commemoration of the Invisible Threat movement and to celebrate the CDC’s National Infant Immunization Week, we asked a group of our dynamo-Parent Advocates why they choose to vaccinate. These parents are participating in a three year campaign, called the Immunity Community, whose goal is to increase conversations about the positive aspects of vaccination and help parents embrace vaccination as a community priority. Here are their responses:

Why I vaccinate?

Julie G.: I vaccinate my child because it is a safe and effective way to protect him against 14 diseases that, if he were to get, could potentially permanently damage his health or put his life and the lives of others at risk too. There is so much to worry about as a parent. With vaccines I have 14 fewer things I don’t have to worry about as much.

Yvette B.: I vaccinate my kids because I want to keep them healthy and happy.

Kathy H.:  I vaccinate myself and my children because all the risk and benefit analyses done, all over the world, by every major scientific and health organization agree that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.

Alisson B.:  I vaccinate my kids because I want to give them the best chance at a healthy life and to protect those in our community who need it most.

Megan W.: I choose to vaccinate my kids because I can’t protect them from everything, but I can protect them from the diseases that they can be vaccinated against. I also vaccinate my kids to provide protection for those who can’t get vaccinated.

Lisa M: I choose to vaccinate because I want to help my child stay healthy and to help protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

Our Immunity Community Parent Advocates are making a difference in their communities by speaking out in support if immunizations and making sure other parents know that vaccinating is a safe way to keep their family and community protected against disease. You have the ability to make a difference in our fight against infectious diseases.  Follow our Invisible Threat Blog Relay and find out how you can be a part of the movement.   Tomorrow’s post will be hosted by Nurses Who Vaccinate.  And be sure to friend the Invisible Threat Facebook  page and follow the filmmakers on Twitter @InvisThreat.

Additionally, you can also watch Invisible Threat at a special screening at the National Conference on Immunizations and Health Coalitions coming up in Seattle in May! Learn more and register today.

Tags: Immunity Community   immunizations   Invisible Threat   

Musings on NIIW, Being a Mom and Immunizing My Children

Attending the 2013 National Infant Immunization Week event at Town Hall a few weeks ago with author of The Panic Virus Seth Mnookin and Seattle Mama Doc Wendy Sue Swanson stirred up old memories of making the decision to immunize my first child. With new parent vulnerability and emotions running high I got caught up in the immunization decision-making frenzy. This is my story….I was “that” mom–you know, the parent that I’m now trying to influence to make a reasonable, science-based decision to vaccinate their child. I wish I had a me back then who stuck up for vaccines, especially when I was exhausted from lack of sleep, barely bathing, and getting out of my house was a daily feat.After my son’s birth, I joined a local mom’s group to meet other parents in my neighborhood. What I didn’t know was how influential these other mothers would be on my health decisions, specifically vaccinating my son. I think it was the 2nd or 3rd session when vaccines came up. A mom asked me, “Are you going to vaccinate your son?” I had never thought twice about vaccinating my child up until that very moment. That question spurred a lengthy discussion, along with a whole host of concerns I had never considered. One mom added that she was using an “alternative [which I now refer to as delayed] schedule” by this pediatrician named Dr. Sears, and had I heard of this great book?

All of a sudden, I felt this alarm go off in my head and panic set in. I was taking my son in for his 2 month well-child visit NEXT WEEK, where he was supposed to get his first round of immunizations. At that moment it felt like a life or death decision that I was making. I was so emotionally wrought. What if my child was hurt by a vaccine? What if they were wrong about the vaccine-autism link and vaccines really did cause autism and my son would be the first causal link? What was I going to do? Well the first thing I did was march down to the bookstore and purchase myself a copy of that infamous Dr. Sears vaccine book. I read it front to back, highlighted passages, and shared sections with my husband. He was a believer now too! Luckily, I had a seasoned pediatrician who discussed and vetted my concerns with me and ultimately I relied on his expertise and experience and fully vaccinated my child. And, by the way, he was fine. He cried but it was fleeting, no fever, no lethargy, just my beautiful baby, except now he was protected.

Fast-forward to 2013: I am now the proud mother of two boys who are fully vaccinated. I work in the field of immunizations and ironically enough, I work on a campaign to empower parents to speak up about the importance of vaccines: that they are a smart, healthy decision, not only for the health of your child, but for the whole community. I wish other parents in my mom’s group had the guts or the knowledge to speak up and say that vaccines were safe, and that they were going to vaccinate their kids on the recommended schedule. Instead I heard from the minority, the vocal minority who scared the crap out of the sleep-deprived shell of who I am today. My reactions and emotions would have been so different 4 ½ years ago if just one mommy had stuck up for vaccines.

This is why campaigns like the Immunity Community and events like we hosted at Town Hall are so important. Social networks (as we are finding out) are such a key influence on us moms. We need pro-vaccine mommies to share the benefits of vaccines, so instead of fearing vaccines, we fear the diseases they protect against. Here are a few quotes and thoughts that resonated with me from the Town Hall event (which you can watch online), what resonates with you?

“Parents who delay or space out shots feel they have some control but in fact they are putting their children at risk; Dr. Bob Sears is preying on parent’s concerns.” -Seth Mnookin

“We put so much money and resources into vaccines so that we never see and experience the diseases they prevent but so little money goes into autism research and support yet we see or know people with autism every day.” -Seth Mnookin

“People feel smarter if they are outsmarting the consensus.” – Wendy Sue Swanson

“Delaying vaccines puts infants at risk when they are most vulnerable. It is not any safer.” -Wendy Sue Swanson

“How do you figure out what the truth is? Identify when you are making a decision based on emotion vs. science; ask yourself, am I having an emotional reaction?” – Seth Mnookin


Tags: immunizations   NIIW   Panic Virus   vaccines   

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