South Jersey Mom Champions Shot@Life
Sarah Hughes is one of 100 champions for 2013 in the United Nations Foundation's Shot@Life program, which has a goal of bringing critical vaccines to children worldwide.
Sarah Hughes remembers the panic in the wake of the 2009 H1N1 flu scare, and the hours-long wait to get her son, Derek, a simple flu vaccine.
But Hughes, a Cherry Hill resident, counts herself lucky—she has access to that flu vaccine and others that help keep both her children protected from preventable diseases that kill an estimated 1.5 million children around the world, who can’t or don’t get those same immunizations.
That’s part of the reason Hughes got involved this year with the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life program, which has a goal of bringing vaccines to those children and stopping the trend of one death every 20 seconds from vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Just hearing that statistic—I cannot imagine being their mother, I can’t imagine it being my kids,” Hughes said. “I have access to everything in the world for my children…I owe it to mothers worldwide to help them gain that access.”
One of 100 champions selected by the Shot@Life program, Hughes spent time this month in Washington, DC, advocating on behalf of the program and children worldwide.
She and her fellow champions spent time on Capitol Hill, meeting with members of Congress to support investments in global health, specifically for children.
Part of their message was directed at eradicating polio—a disease that hasn’t occurred naturally in the United States since 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control—on a worldwide basis. While it’s nearly wiped out globally—UN estimates peg it as 99 percent gone—that one percent still represents too much, Hughes said.
“It’s still out there,” she said. Ending the disease in our lifetime would “give us a global win.”
Wiping out polio is an attainable goal, Hughes said, especially with how little it would cost to bring four major vaccines—polio, measles, pneumonia and rotavirus—to the children who need them; as little as $20 per child, according to Shot@Life’s estimates.
Hughes compared it to the co-pays Americans are used to at the doctor’s office, or daily spending that’s taken for granted.
“Think of the extra $20 you spend just walking into Target—that could save a child's life,” she said.
Though Hughes didn’t see herself in this kind of role prior to getting involved, that changed in an instant when she contrasted her life with the plight of parents around the world, who struggle to meet basic medical needs and all too often see their children die before them, she said.
“If I had to, I would've waited for days to get (Derek) that vaccine,” Hughes said. “I just feel like we're lucky, and I want to help people who don't have that access.”