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Rebecca Maxie, director of grassroots advocacy for the United Nations Foundation, wants to change the world. Maxie told the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) that she feels a moral obligation to fight for access to lifesaving vaccines for every person — regardless of their age or nationality.
“It’s important to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice,” said Maxie, adding that her work with Shot@Life is her honest attempt to bring the type of change she wants to see in the world. “We need to look after kids, mothers and families in every corner of the world. Collectively, with a voice, we are able to effect change,” Maxie said.
For 6.5 years, Maxie has run grassroots advocacy efforts for the United Nations Foundation, working directly with the Shot@Life program. Maxie commended the work NPs are doing as Shot@Life Champions — trained advocates for the organization.
“They have credibility,” said Maxie, speaking of the NPs who serve as champions for Shot@Life. “They can instantly connect with legislators and accurately address the issue.”
One NP who is a Shot@Life Champion, Mary Koslap-Petraco, DNP, PPCNP-BC, CPNP, FAANP, told AANP she truly believes Shot@Life makes a positive difference in the world. “I became a Shot@Life Champion because children all over the world deserve to have access to lifesaving vaccines,” said Koslap-Petraco. “I used to think as I vaccinated children here in the U.S., how can we get children all over the world access to the same lifesaving vaccines that U.S. children have? Shot@life has given me the opportunity to advocate legislators in Washington, D.C., to fund vaccine programs for children in emerging countries. We cannot conquer vaccine preventable diseases unless we do it on a global scale, which is the goal for Shot@life.”
Another Shot@Life Champion, Michael S. Robinson, DNP, FNP-C, told AANP that NPs need to help elected officials see the importance of initiatives, like vaccination so that they will make them a priority. “I appreciate Shot@Life because it emphasizes the disparity throughout the world in regard to preventive health — chief of which is vaccination,” said Robinson. “With our world as connected as it is, we need to protect each other.”
“One in five kids still don’t have access to lifesaving vaccines. Every 20 seconds a child dies,” said Maxie. “We want to eliminate that in the hardest-to-reach areas. Success would look like zero kids lacking vaccine access. Every kid needs access to those life-saving vaccines.”
NPs have made a positive impact as Shot@Life Champions by raising awareness of the issue, meeting with legislators about funding and highlighting policy issues related to vaccination. “Advocacy is easier and quicker than most people think,” said Maxie. “If you have five minutes, we will make the most of your five minutes. If you have an hour, we will make the most of your hour.”
Shot@Life Champions are most active in the fall and spring — addressing Congress before and after the budget season. There are several ways Champions can help, including speaking to Congress; training monthly; attending virtual or in-person conferences, summits and other events; or participating in an annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
“NPs make the perfect advocates to discuss vaccines,” Maxie said. “We want them to feel empowered. We get to see their growth and see how they use their voice. We want them to be efficient and effective and to move the needle on this issue. These skills are transferable to other things, and we hope to give them the skills needed to use their voice in an effective way on all the issues they care about.”
To keep AANP’s most active advocates engaged, Shot@Life offers a variety of training opportunities, including deep dives throughout the year that focus on writing a letter to the editor, holding fundraisers and ensuring your comments reach Congress. The one thing Maxie wants all NPs to know is, “Your advocacy does have an impact. Your voice is very powerful.” She encourages all NPs to consider becoming Shot@Life Champions.
“Vaccines are important because they give every kid a chance to level the playing field,” said Maxie. “We take for granted that a $1 polio vaccine changed the world. We need to be sure that, no matter where a kid lives, they have access to a life-saving vaccine. It is the very basic need of a child.”
Thanks to the hard work of Shot@Life Champions, millions of dollars in funding for global vaccination efforts has been protected. Combating vaccine hesitancy and trying to correct misinformation is the biggest hurdle Champions face.
It is vital that patient educators and advocates continue their work. The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how easy it is for misinformation and vaccine hesitancy to impact vaccination rates. “The pandemic has shown the importance of having these infrastructures in place,” said Maxie, referencing the need to protect funding and support for global vaccines. “It’s vital to be prepared, protect against health inequities and establish trust that will enable a quick and effective response to the next challenge. “We’ve seen the inequities,” Maxie said. “Hopefully we can prevent the next pandemic.”
If you’re registered for the 2022 AANP National Conference in Orlando, Florida, be sure to add the Shot@Life Champion training session to your conference schedule. Complete the training to earn continuing education (CE) credit and gain skills that will enable you to advocate for global vaccine access. Shot@Life experts have trained more than 3,500 Champions nationwide and created a vibrant network of advocates. While being a Shot@Life Champion does not require a large time commitment, it will equip you to help ensure children worldwide have access to lifesaving vaccines. After completing the one-hour course — which is open to all NPs — you, too, could be a Shot@Life Champion!