TAM 7 is fast approaching and those of you who have already signed up may have noticed something a bit different at the bottom of the registration page. This year the JREF is working with the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) to provide vaccinations for the children in Nevada.
Nevada has one of the worst vaccination rates in the nation. The reasons are multifactorial. Though there is a significant fraction of children who remain unvaccinated because of the distrust of vaccine safety spread by the current anti-vaccination movement, lack of health insurance, a large transitory population, and poverty (Las Vegas unemployment is now over 10%) also play a large role in its dismal vaccination rate.
Nevada has recognized this problem and has instituted the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which is federally funded and provides vaccines at no cost to VFC eligible children, and the state health department holds both standing and roaming health clinics to provide vaccinations to children.
Though the vaccines provided through the VFC are free, their administration is not. Due to financial restrictions, the SNHD has had to charge an "administrative charge" to families to cover the overhead of vaccine administration. They charge $16 for the administration of one shot, and $25 for multiple vaccinations. This cost is small, but represents a significant financial barrier to families living below the poverty line, and an excuse for those above it.
Many of us in the scientific and skeptical communities have been active speaking out against the claims of the anti-vaccination movement. Yet in spite of a mountain of evidence exonerating vaccines some parents still elect not to vaccinate their children; vaccination rates in many areas are below the threshold needed to impart herd immunity and we are seeing the return of vaccine preventable diseases. Clearly evidence and talking are not sufficient to minimize the impact of the anti-vaccination movement.
What more can be done? We can limit the collateral damage of Jenny McCarthy's destructive bile. We can help protect the innocent. We can lower the barriers to vaccination so that the only people unvaccinated are either those who cannot be vaccinated due to age or health, or those who for whatever misguided reason choose not to vaccinate. Herd immunity needs to be reinforced or in some cases re-established, and it must be done one child at a time.
That is where our current project comes in to play. The JREF is going to fully subsidize the cost of vaccination to families who go to the SNHD clinics for as long as our donations last. Not only will this remove any financial barriers to vaccination, but it will also serve to heighten the awareness of the services provided by the SNHD.
You don't need to attend TAM 7 (although you should) in order to help. Go to the TAM 7 registration page, and at the very bottom you will find the donation links. For $25 the Vaccine Fair Donation - One Series will cover the entire cost to a child regardless of the number of vaccines administered that day, and the Vaccine Fair Donation - One Vaccine covers the cost of a single vaccine for $16. Add as many as you like to your cart and check out.
A while back, a friend relayed a conversation he'd had with a group of skeptics who were bemoaning the way in which we as skeptics were publicly cast in a negative light, maligned, even hated. His response: "What have you done to be loved?" This is a chance to give him an answer.