April 27, 2015 | ,

Protecting Kids: stories of immunization from home and afield

Vaccines work. In these stories from around the globe, we see their power to protect kids, strengthen communities, and create opportunities.

Laotian girl receives oral vaccine.

This much we know: around the globe, people want their children to have healthy, productive, and full lives. More than anything, they want to protect their kids.

We’ve witnessed the desire to protect a child. We’ve seen how parents and families react when they’re told a miraculous new vaccine can give them the power to fight a disease. The commitment of health workers who will stop at nothing on their quest to deliver it. We’ve also seen the sadness when that “miracle” is not available or arrives too late.

Welcome to Protecting Kids, a collection of stories curated from friends and partners of PATH for World Immunization Week.

Read through the whole collection below and follow #ProtectingKids to join the online conversation.

A girl sits next to a man on a bench.
Aisha Nanyombi, age 17, with her father Musa Maka in the village of Molwe, Nakasangola District. Aisha’s mother died of cervical cancer. Aisha was among the very first girls in Africa to be vaccinated against HPV. Aisha received the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine through PATH’s HPV vaccine project. Photo: PATH/Will Boase.

HPV vaccine: Protecting Aisha from cervical cancer
By Lesley Reed, senior writer at PATH
PATH staff first met Aisha five years ago in Uganda during an HPV vaccination campaign, and her story was so powerful that the BBC followed her home. Five years later, we found her again.

Saving lives by dinnertime: the balancing act of global health parenting
By Amie Batson, chief strategy officer at PATH, and Dr. Orin Levine, director of vaccine delivery at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Amie Batson and Orin Levine aren’t just leaders at two global health organizations, working globally on health equity and vaccination. They’re also married and raising two daughters. Here they make the case that we should use World Immunization Week to start conversations about the importance of immunizing children, both at home and abroad.

Engaging youth may get us to the finish line
By Ahsan Ahmad, UNICEF Next Generation ambassador
Delivering two drops of a polio vaccine to a young boy in Lahore, Pakistan, changed this aspiring physician’s perspective forever.

My experience with vaccine refusal and autism awareness
By Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, US Science Envoy
Dr. Hotez says vaccines are one of the most important tools to protect children. As a father of an autistic child, he speaks from a unique perspective when combating vaccine denial in the US and around the world.

Girl in hospital bed with tube up her nose and mother comforting her.
Namfon, aged 6, is hospitalized in Vientiane, Laos, after contracting Japanese Encephilitis, a vaccine-preventable disease. Her mother, Teo, leans over to comfort her. Photo: PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Giving every life an equal chance to thrive
By Monica Graham, communications manager, Vaccine Access and Delivery Program at PATH
The Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine came too late for six-year-old Namfon. But soon, all children in Laos will be protected through the power of one lifesaving vaccine.

Disneyland success story during measles outbreak
By Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, and Seattle Mama Doc
During the Disneyland outbreak, only 147 people caught measles out of potentially many thousands who stayed perfectly healthy. Dr. Sue Swanson says this is something to be excited about and shares the facts in the most entertaining way.

Nolan Coles in the hospital.

Super Bowl Sunday: One family’s victory over RSV
By Matt Coles, senior program and contract analyst at International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC)
A parent’s perspective on his child’s hospitalization from respiratory syncytial Virus (RSV) and the need for a vaccine against a disease that does not have one.

My mother’s fight against polio, and her passion for preventing disease
By Katie Waller, Sabin Vaccine Institute
Susan was just six years old when she was diagnosed with polio. Now, more than fifty years later, her passion for protecting kids against vaccine-preventable diseases is unwavering—and has shaped her daughter’s public health career, too.

Vaccinating each child to build a village
By Gunjan Taneja and Anjali Vaishnav, USAID Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program
In Chandradeepa, a remote village in eastern India, auxiliary nurse midwife Esther Das uses a simple and innovative paper chart called “My Village, My Home” to track vaccinations.

Malaria, a curse across the generations
By Callisto Sekeleza for ONE Campaign
As a child in Malawi, his mother carried him on her back 6 kilometers to the clinic. As a parent, he has worried at the bedside while his child struggles with fevers from malaria infection.

Woman sitting with two children and a baby.

A sister with polio, my children will never miss an immunization
By Mwanaidi Msangi, communications associate, BID Initiative, Tanzania
In Tanzania, Fathiya’s sister was diagnosed with polio at a young age. After learning the disease is preventable through vaccines, she makes sure her three children never miss an immunization.

A boy in a remote Ethiopian village gets his first shots
By the International Rescue Committee
Nyabel, a young mother in a remote, Ethiopian village, is proud of her accomplishment: she walked three miles to the nearest health clinic to fully vaccinate her newborn son.

What I saw as a child led me to champion vaccines today
By Rebecca Martin, PhD, director of Global Immunization Division, Center for Global Health, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. Rebecca Martin traces the root of her passion for child health and vaccines to a day at the bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1974, when she saw a boy who embodied the heartbreaking consequences of polio.

Missed chance for protection becomes a lifesaving opportunity in Vietnam
Dr. Vu Minh Huong, director of Vaccines and Immunization, Mekong Regional Program at PATH
When a doctor in Vietnam neglected to give a baby boy the hepatitis B birth-dose vaccine, despite plenty of available doses, Dr. Huong set out to learn why.

Photo Essay: vaccines in Deschappelles, Haiti
Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good
This photo essay documents mothers showing up to immunize their children at one of the 280 mobile health posts run by Hôpital Albert Schweitzer.

This child received a vaccine against rotavirus, this child did not
By Deb Kidd, PATH Defeat Diarrheal Disease Initiative
In 2009, with Dhaka in the grips of a terrible diarrheal disease outbreak, mothers enrolled their children in a clinical trial for the rotavirus vaccine, hoping to protect them from the illness striking kids across the city.

Group of young children holding their vaccination records.

Japanese encephalitis—terrible disease or the hottest new band?
By Judith Rowland and Stefany Gutu, Global Poverty Project
Never heard of Japanese encephalitis? No, it isn’t a sweet new J-pop band. Soon 300 million children will be immunized against this disease also known as “brain fever.”

A woman wearing a hat.

Sharing immunization knowledge to save lives
By Fred Shamakondo Njobvu, provincial coordinator, BID Initiative, Zambia
When she learned how vaccines could protect her children against diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea, Monde walked four kilometers to the health facility in Livingstone, Zambia, with her four-year-old and set of twins.

Meet Vusi—a lucky little boy
By Hope Randall, PATH Defeat Diarrheal Disease Initiative
Teresa rushed her first son to the hospital several times due to severe diarrhea. After her second son was born, she was thrilled to learn about the rotavirus vaccine. “I’m very glad this vaccine has come to help our babies. Diarrhea is a major problem in Zambia.”

When diarrhea gets personal: one girl’s fight against rotavirus
By Laura Edison, PATH Defeat Diarrheal Disease Initiative
Laura Edison had been working as a rotavirus vaccine advocate for a year before she learned the virus played a significant role in her own childhood story.

People gather around a table at the MenAfriVac vaccine launch in Burkina Faso.

Eradicating polio requires protecting vaccinators
By Dr. Christine Sow, executive director of Global Health Council
In 2013-2014, more health care workers employed as vaccinators died from personal attacks than the estimated number of deaths from polio. Frontline health workers save countless lives but shouldn’t have to risk their own.

On the front lines of immunization: A nurse midwife and a low-cost, paper tool
By Robert Steinglass, director of JSI Immunization Center
Mothers like Durga have a new tool that shows them how protecting their children through vaccines ensures the well-being of other families.

Why I care about vaccines
By Rana Chakraborty, MD, FAAP, American Academy of Pediatrics
Dr. Chakraborty shares a haunting story of two children on a playground: one recovering from a kidney transplant, the other with an asymptomatic case of measles who unknowingly spread the vaccine-preventable disease.

Bringing communities and health workers together to expand immunization coverage
By Mike Favin and Rebecca Fields, senior immunization advisorsMaternal and Child Survival Program
Vaccination coverage improves when community leaders and community health workers are involved in the planning process.

A health worker dispenses an oral vaccination to a woman.

The unsung heroes of Nigeria’s vaccination efforts
By Stella Roy, a Rotary club leader in Nova Scotia, Canada
A day in the life of a health worker delivering vaccines in Nigeria.

Lady health workers: the backbone of health care in Pakistan
By Huma Khawar, International Vaccine Access Center
Rukhsana, a health worker in Pakistan, is undeterred by some families’ resistance to vaccines. Instead, she informs and builds rapport with the skeptical to ensure that all the children in her villages are protected.

World Immunization Week: Ileze’s story
Submitted by the American Red Cross
Follow Josephine on her journey from awareness to action when she decides to get her children vaccinated against measles during an American Red Cross campaign in Benin.

The gift of health: every child’s right
Submitted by International Vaccine Access Center
Every child has the right to a healthy start, and it is the responsibility of not just the government, but also of the community to ensure that all our children are fully immunized at the right time.

Thanks to all of the organizations and authors who contributed to this series. Join the social media conversation at the hashtag #protectingkids.

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  • Hope Randall is a digital communications officer in the Vaccine Development Program at PATH.
  • Portrait of Tracy Romoser. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.
    Tracy Romoser was formerly a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.