Barbara L. Wallace is an active supporter of Immunization Ambassadors. She is committed to IA’s cause — advocating for the lifesaving power of vaccines — and a vaccine expert in her own right, as a retired nurse who has spent her career helping others. We recently sat down with Barbara to discuss her IA story—read on to learn more!
- How did you find out about Immunization Ambassadors?
I joined Immunization Ambassadors in May of 2016. I found out about the program when I saw a post on social media.
- Why did you become an Immunization Ambassador?
I believe in the power of medical science and that vaccines are a proven and effective tool to stop the spread of disease and promote health across the lifespan. During my career as a Registered Nurse (RN) I have witnessed the devastation the unvaccinated endure and feel it is my duty to use whatever influence I have to dispel myths and promote science.
- Can you tell me more about your background as a nurse/retired nurse?
I graduated and was registered as a nurse in 1979. My career spanned 34 years working in General Surgery, Medicine, Pediatrics, Adult Critical Care and for the last 14 years as a Certified Diabetes Educator.
- As a retired nurse, what impact did you see immunizations have on your patients’ lives?
I have experienced the benefits of immunizations personally myself and watched the positive outcomes with my children and grandchildren. They have been spared the diseases that were so common during my childhood growing up. I have also witnessed the devastation unvaccinated individuals have experienced when they contracted diseases that were so preventable. They suffered with an illness and sometimes resulting disabilities, and their lives were forever changed in a dramatic way.
- Why is immunization advocacy important?
I understand that misinformation and the resulting fear it can cause is rampant in our internet age. Individuals who do not have the scientific educational background or access to evidence-based research get drawn in by this misinformation. By sharing easy to understand scientific truths with my circle of influence I hope to dispel some of the myths they have adapted as truths and free them from barriers that limit these individuals from making sound and practical health decisions for themselves and their family.
- How can others practice immunization advocacy and learn more about immunizations?
It has never been easier to have a say and make a positive difference in the world around you. Social media offers a plethora of options to share facts, hope and good news and I encourage those who have a desire to make a positive difference in the world to decide which platform works best for them and have at it! Partnering with an association such as Immunization Ambassadors allows instant access and credibility to the information we share.
- What is your favorite part about being an Immunization Ambassador?
I love sharing #WhyIVax gems of information with anyone who will listen. It’s like shining a ray of light into a dark space. And who doesn’t love to be drawn to the light!
- Did you get your COVID-19 booster shot and initial COVID-19 vaccine series?
I live with two autoimmune diseases, one of which I take an immunosuppressive drug to treat. To date, I have received two COVID-19 boosters in addition to my initial two COVID-19 vaccines because I’m immunocompromised. I have been exposed at least twice since my first booster and subsequent second booster to family members who were COVID-19 positive unbeknownst to them. I have avoided contracting COVID-19 both times. I did experience some of the expected short term side effects with each vaccine dose, but it was worth it to me to have confidence in my ability to avoid serious disease or death. I do also take recommended precautions such as masking in public places, frequent hand washing and limiting contacts.
- What is a vaccine myth that you’d like to dispel?
Prior to the pandemic, I would have said the myth that vaccines cause autism in children (they don’t). Since the pandemic, I would say the myth that COVID-19 vaccines were not researched long enough and so deemed unsafe by so many individuals. The evidence-based research clearly shows the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines and if we can convince those who are vaccine hesitant of this fact, it will go a long, long way to end this pandemic sooner with reduce loss of life and disability caused by COVID-19 infection in the unvaccinated.
- What advice do you have for dispelling misinformation that the anti-vaxxer community promotes?
I have found from personal experience that arguing with an anti-vaxxer individual is not productive. Being a good listener is important to understand where a particular individual stands on the issues. There are excellent tools available to help us all develop our skills in engaging in a productive dialogue with an anti-vaxxer. There are many excellent articles to equip and encourage us to effectively speak the truth. I am not a pro at this by any means. I struggle to effectively share my knowledge and convictions with those who disagree. But practicing the communication skills needed to be effective does work. And by doing our best to try, even if we don’t always get it right or effect change in that moment, I believe it still will make a difference and hopefully aid in helping to move an individual from a place of denial to acceptance. The key is to take every opportunity to try.
- Why do you vax?
Because it works. Plain and simple. We have years of proof and positive results of the effectiveness of vaccines, and I fully support all ongoing public health efforts to immunize Canadians and the citizens of the world throughout their lifespan.
- Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts and passion regarding immunizations. I hope that our collective efforts will inspire and encourage those who have been hesitant to embrace immunizations, to open their minds to the possibilities for themselves and their families. Their health and future wellbeing depends on it.
To join the Immunization Ambassadors movement (for free!), visit “Get Started” on immunizationambassadors.com (or click this link). And don’t forget to share why you vaccinate on social media using “#WhyIVax”. Who knows—you could even be featured in the next Immunization Ambassadors Spotlight!