Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's About Time: Voices for Vaccines

The reason this blog exists—why it continued beyond our initial efforts—is because of fellow parents. Since starting Moms Who Vax, Karen and I have met many remarkable moms and dads who choose to vaccinate their children and are, frankly, fed up with the lack of push-back against the loud and rancorous voices of parents who intentionally leave their children unvaccinated. By sharing their stories, we know many of these parents have changed minds, provided reassurance, perspective, and sanity.

But it’s not enough. It’s one thing to blog. It’s quite another to join forces in an official way, under the auspices of an organization. Organizations get invited to conferences. They get a seat at the table. They can streamline advocacy efforts, print flyers, provide educational materials, reach out to media, provide members to testify at legislative hearings. Time and time again, Karen and I heard parents asking: what else can we do?

Now we have an answer: join Voices for Vaccines.

Over the past eight months, Karen and I have been working with vaccine legends Dr. Deborah Wexler, Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Alan Hinman, and Dr. Stanley Plotkin to re-launch—and perhaps more important, to re-imagine—their pro-vaccine advocacy organization, Voices for Vaccines. Initially designed to be the “go-to source for vaccine information,” the project stalled, despite great interest. When Karen and I came to the project, we both felt very strongly that a parent-driven, parent-focused organization was the missing link in this vaccine conversation. More than ninety percent of parents overall vaccinate their children. If this is the case, why are the anti-vaccine parents the ones we see in the media, on blogs, in the comment sections, and at legislative hearings? Why is the anti-vax National Vaccine Information Center the dominant parent organization in the vaccine world? It was this conundrum that we wanted to address, and the founders of Voices for Vaccines were in complete agreement.

Karen and I held a few conference calls with some of our past contributors and trusted partners to share the initial idea, and when we gave them a description of this new direction, the excitement was palpable. One of our “Moms Who Vax” said she’d been dreaming about such an organization for years. The enthusiasm was infectious (no pun intended--okay, pun absolutely intended), and it has kept us going over these last six months. Between preschool, soccer games, dance lessons, our day jobs, and our other vaccine-related efforts, this thing slowly came together, along with the help of some amazing individuals, including Immunization Action Coalition's Julie Murphy and Mike Franey.

Now we are ready to open the workshop doors, and even though we still have work to do, particularly on the website, we didn't want to delay bringing pro-vax parents into the fold any longer.  At Voices for Vaccines, you will find a home for the ninety percent of us who vaccinate our children on time. You will find vaccine information vetted by the best minds in vaccinology, but you will also find opportunities to make your voice heard—in your local community as well as nationally. You can share your story in the VFV blog Parents Who Vax (still a work in progress). You will be able to download toolkits on topics from “How to Write an Op-Ed” and “Keeping the Media Honest” to “How to Talk to a Vaccine-Hesitant Parent” and beyond. You can sign up for the VFV newsletter to stay on top of the latest vaccine news and to receive action alerts, including calls for comments on articles about vaccine topics (typically dominated by anti-vax voices) and invitations to conference calls with heavy-hitters in the medical and scientific communities, and beyond. Learn about opportunities to join forces with other pro-vax parents! We need you--your creativity, your ideas, and your passion. 

We have a new website, although it is far from complete and still in need of fixes and design tweaks. But this is just the beginning. Even more changes are in store, and we want you with us. Please join VFV and join forces with other pro-vax parents to take over the world—or at least protect children and vulnerable members in our community from vaccine-preventable disease and bad science!

For us, and for the founders of VFV, this relaunch is the stuff of dreams. A national organization uniting parents who vaccinate and are passionate about it?

It’s about time.

Editor's Note: If you're in Minnesota this weekend, please come to the Voices for Vaccines' launch party, "Our Voices Rockin' at downtown Minneapolis' PourHouse. Hosted by Don Shelby and featuring the music of rock band Verge, there will also be a silent auction. Saturday, January 19th, 7pm-10pm. Suggested donation of $10 and 21 and up. Hope to see you there! 

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