In the wake of outbreaks of diseases like measles, many parents are wondering what they can do to protect their families and their communities from diseases that vaccines can prevent. Here are three steps that any parent can take:
1. Make sure your whole family is up to date on immunizations.
To best protect our communities, all of us need to be immunized. For example, when moms and dads are immunized against whooping cough, babies are protected because they are less likely to catch the disease from them. To learn more about what immunizations might be right for you, go to the Washington State Department of Health.
Ask your family’s healthcare providers about getting up to date! If you need help finding an immunization provider, contact ParentHelp123
2. Be a positive voice for immunizations.
Speak up for vaccines! Tell other parents in a positive way why you immunize on time and why you think it is important to your community. Posting stories and information about immunization and your own experiences getting vaccinated on social media can also be a great way to show your support for immunization. (Like WithinReach on Facebook
or follow us on Twitter
for great news and facts to share.) For tips on having respectful and productive conversations about vaccines, check out this blog post
Find the immunization rate for your child’s school on SchoolDigger
. Consider writing a letter to the editor about news items relating to immunization. If there is a policy change being considered in your school or state that you care about, let your representative know. Connecting with programs specifically for parents, like the Immunity Community
in Washington State or Voices for Vaccines
, a national organization, can be a great way to get more involved.
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The following is an excerpt from a blog post written by one of our returning Parent Advocates, Kathy Hennessy.WithinReach is thrilled to work in Bellingham for a second year of the Immunity Community this coming 2014-15 school year.
I’ve long considered myself to be a semi-crunchy person. I grew up in a beach community and have always had an appreciation for taking care of the environment. When my first daughter was born I did not think twice about the eye goop or the vaccine they gave her in the hospital or the vaccines she got every few months thereafter. She was a colicky baby and the parenting books that helped me the most were by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. William Sears. I had found attachment parenting and it not only worked well with our daughter’s temperament but it fit with what I wanted for my life with my baby. My husband wholeheartedly agreed.
Being a practitioner of attachment parenting, I was drawn to others who also wear their babies and co-sleep and that led me to meeting mothers who do not vaccinate their children. I live in Whatcom County in Washington State where nearly 8% of kindergartners and 6th graders in public schools have vaccine exemptions, which is about double the state exemption rate
How can a person who thinks of herself as crunchy still vaccinate her children? I am asked this all the time. Science. Science is the answer. And it is not a belief system or the truth. It is evidence in support or not supporting an idea. Simply put, there is no evidence to support not vaccinating. None. Everything I read – and I do read a lot of pro- and anti-vaccine information, both as former administrator of the Facebook page Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children
and in my current position as Immunity Community Parent Advocate – has supported the choice to vaccinate.
We know that there are risks with every parenting decision we make, but we have to make them rationally and based on sound science. Since every country and every major medical and scientific body on earth supports vaccines and there is lots of evidence that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risk, immunizing myself and our children and advocating that the husband also gets up-to-date on his vaccines is one of the wisest health choices we have made.
So, how can I be crunchy and pro-vax? Simple. Because we do what we know is best for our health, based on sound science. Living healthy, i.e. being crunchy, makes sense to us. So does vaccination.
While I was running the Facebook page Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children, I became aware of the Immunity Community. In the Immunity Community, parents learn to use their social networks, both online and off, to advocate in a positive and non-adversarial way for immunization. We are taught to spread the word about the benefits and how to talk to parents who are concerned about the risks. I was thrilled to find this group and advocated strongly for them to come to Bellingham. Now I am part of the Immunity Community and I could not be happier. We got our program written up in the Bellingham Herald, on the front page, which was thrilling. Other parents are making a huge different at their children’s preschools, by sharing information in a positive manner. We are making a difference. And it is very exciting to be spreading the word that you can live in healthy, crunchy Bellingham, WA and also be fully immunized.
** As summer winds down, kids and their families across Washington State are gearing up for the start of a new school year. With a new year upon us, it is a good time to make sure you and your family are up-to-date on all the required vaccines for school entry. Vaccines are free in Washington State for all children under 19. For help finding a vaccination clinic visit: http://parenthelp123.org/resources/resource-finder or call 1-800-322-2588.
Curious how protected your children’s school is from vaccine-preventable diseases? Check-out http://www.schooldigger.com/WAImmunization/ to see your school’s vaccination and exemption rates.
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