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One of the Most Important Things to Do For Your Grandkids

By getting immunized yourself, you help ensure that they and other kids won't get sick

By Donna Butts

Grandparents and grandfriends go to great lengths to protect the children in their lives. Among other things they provide safe environments, share stories that connect children to their roots and, in some cases, help pay for their education or after-school activities.

They care deeply. So why then does the number of adults up to date on their vaccinations remain low?

Only 20 percent have received their Tdap vaccination to provide protection from tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

To help educate unsuspecting older adults, children and youth and families, Generations United recently launched Valuing Vaccinations Across Generations, an awareness campaign designed to bridge age-specific efforts to increase immunizations into intergenerational conversations within families and among different generations.

Are You Wearing It?

Our campaign goal is simple: We want to encourage people to wear a #BandAGEofhonor and protect their family and others by ensuring their vaccinations are up to date. It's a unique effort that uses a lifespan approach to spark conversations around building healthy intergenerational communities where people of all ages are valued and can thrive.

At Generations United, we're not experts in vaccinations. So we're honored to be working in partnership with the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as we develop this international effort.

Together, we're developing tools to encourage intergenerational dialogues about health and protecting other generations. To date, we’ve created a lifespan vaccine infographic, social media memes, videos, and a recently released intergenerational discussion guide that includes activities and discussion starters. All of these are available on our new website

Elvis as Role Model

We’re also elevating “vaccine champions,” people like Elvis Presley, who became the poster boy for the polio vaccine when he took his shot from an army doctor before going on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. Vaccine rates among the American population shot from 2 percent to 85 percent by the time of his Army discharge in 1960.

Get Vaccinated for Your Grandchildren and Yourself Elvis embed

Grandparents and other older adults have the same opportunity to demonstrate leadership.

Eighty-nine-year-old Tom Taylor, who lived through the polio epidemic and remembered Elvis’s impact, said just as much in his video testimonial on the value of vaccines for all ages: “We have to do what we can to keep our communities healthy and to help our young children who are coming up.”


People who eat well and exercise help keep our communities healthy. You can help the young children coming up by staying current on immunizations and encouraging those you love to do the same.

Love Them, Protect Them

That’s what Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, is doing.

“Keeping current on my vaccinations is protecting my grandchildren,” she said. “I would do anything for them.”

Do the same for the young people in your life. Take a cue from the play, Hamilton: "You can't take away my shot, shot."

Give the next generation a shot. Take yours to keep them safe.

This chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows which vaccines we need throughout our lives.



Donna Butts
Donna Butts is executive director of Generations United, which gathers people of different ages to work together toward a common purpose. She was a 2015 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging. Read More
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