And I'm the mascot of the immunization coalition, Immunize Virginia.
In honor of National Infant Immunization Week, I decided to interview my grandfather, Grandpa Tracker. As you'll learn, the Tracker family have been long immunization advocates. Hope you enjoy!
Tracker: Everybody asks me all the time how I got into the immunization business. I tell them it is in my genes! I give you all the credit, Grandpa!
Grandpa Tracker: Tracker, that is more credit than I deserve. You bring your own pizazz to the family business!
Tracker: I have heard bits and pieces about you during family gatherings but never have heard the real deal from you!
Grandpa Tracker: I started my career as the Blue Tic Hound dog mascot at the local University. As I attended football games, I saw many young players get sick from not having their vaccines like the flu shot. Many would get measles and mumps and have to stay out of the games for weeks. Coaches, fans and players were not thrilled when games would be cancelled for epidemics that could have been avoided if everyone had had their shots on time.
Tracker: So how did you help, Grandpa?
Grandpa Tracker: Well, my cheerleader handler and I would wear signs around our necks saying “Get your shots!” It started getting notice from the media and Voila! , we were stars for immunizations! Our faces were on buttons and calendars!
Tracker: How did you end up in Virginia?
Grandpa Tracker: Young lady, I couldn’t stay a sports mascot forever! My immunization work was too important. In the 90’s, I was recruited by the state coalition Project Immunize Virginia (PIV) to be their mascot. I traveled all over Virginia as the face of PIV to educate and encourage folks to get vaccinated.
Tracker: What was your favorite thing about PIV?
Grandpa Tracker: I loved the quarterly meetings where I met the members and the Virginia Department of Health officials. I looked forward to our community events where I met the public. I also adored the fame! Just kidding. Not kidding! But in all seriousness, the accomplishment I am most proud of during my PIV days was the development of the Virginia Vaccine Immunization Information System (VIIS). I had so much fun traveling to Richmond with the PIV folks , meeting with VDH people and even working with the Attorney General of the Commonwealth! I saw VIIS get started from the ground up. After it was created, I went out to different health systems and doctors' offices from one end of Virginia to the other to get buy in from the docs!
Tracker: Grandpa, that is amazing! Just this year we were able to get participation in VIIS mandated by the legislature for all vaccine providers. Our family has always been in the middle of Virginia vaccine efforts...What do you think my role at ImVA should be?
Grandpa Tracker: The times have changed. I did love my local appearances, but you have had to contend with COVID. I think you should create a presence for yourself in social media. Yes, keep doing the in person events, but get yourself branded! Have your face and voice in printed materials, Tracker swag , blogs, and any way you can get your education points across to the public. Target parents, kids and the grandparents. Don’t be afraid to speak out!
Tracker: Our coalition is so young, only 2 years old. We have not even been able to have an in person meeting!
Grandpa Tracker: Now, now! No pity party. I was very proud when you told me you had been appointed to be the mascot of ImVA. I knew you were up to the challenge! You have steered your new coalition through dramatic times and you are so popular!
Tracker: I was nervous but I knew I had you to turn to if I needed advice! I am so proud to be your granddaughter and for ImVA to continue yours and PIV’s work! We have truly kept immunizations and coalitions in the family! Love you Grandpa Tracker!
Grandpa Tracker: I love you too. Keep up the good work. Now let me get back to the hard work of my retirement!