Shot @ Life logo and photos of children

I know vaccinations are an issue of some contention and emotions run high about the issue. Most of all, regardless of a parent or guardian's stance, I know kids hate shots. In addition, I know the science backs up the fact that without immunizations against preventable diseases, kids are vulnerable…and some die, needlessly. This is an issue that is very different in relatively wealthy nations with healthcare services, sanitation, and health education than it is in economically unstable areas where hygiene, food resources, and water are not guaranteed. 1.5 million kids around the world will die this year due to a lack of access to vaccines—one child dies every 20 seconds from diseases that can be prevented.

The science/medicine will keep getting better, but right now, vaccines are the most accessible way to save these particular children’s lives.

Pneumonia. Diarrhea. Measles. Polio. They don’t take the same toll on kids in our home communities because of the history of years, even decades of vaccinating the vast majority of children. In developing countries, this is not the case. The medical trend is, thankfully, getting better. Since 2001, measles fatalities have been decreased internationally nearly 80%, because vaccines are being made more widely available. The world is nearly free of polio, as over 2.5 billion kids around the globe have been vaccinated, yet that disease is re-emerging in areas that had been polio-free for years.

The United Nations Foundation created the Shot@Life program, to educate communities in every nation about the lifesaving tool available to them, and to get those medical tools to the people. A staggering 75% of unvaccinated children of the world are all living in just ten nations. The youth of those regions are more vulnerable than most since these diseases move much more rapidly via contagion though unvaccinated majorities. One in five children of the world lacks access to life-saving vaccines. I know this will agitate and upset some steadfast parents in the U.S. who are anti-vax, but when the we widen the view to all populations, the science is indisputable that lives are saved by vaccines on a grand scale. Of course billions of dollars (or whatever currency is in a particular country) are also saved, as vaccines are exponentially less expensive than treatment of serious and fatal disease.

It’s not just about surviving, it’s about thriving. Check out the UN Foundation website, get involved, and give more kids what they deserve…give them a shot at life.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation ( and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project ( Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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