Hug Me!

Did you know:

  1. We are currently in the midst of a terrible pertussis (also known as whooping cough) epidemic. In California, more than 2,700 cases have been reported so far this year  — eight times last year’s number at this time. And is on pace to be the worst breakout since 1958!
  2. There is a very effective vaccination for whooping cough and most of us received it when we were kids. But the vaccine wears off after a few years.
  3. Adults and adolescents often get pertussis without realizing it.
  4. Pertussis can occur at any age; however infants and young children, particularly those who are not immunized, are at the highest risk for severe disease and potentially life-threatening complications.
  5. Pertussis is spread through the air by infectious droplets and is highly contagious.
  6. Dragon*Con in Atlanta brings over 40,000 people together from around the world into one (relatively small) space in downtown Atlanta. Most of these people have not received their booster shots for pertussis.
  7. Superwoman Skepchick Elyse Anders is launching an education campaign about vaccinations called “Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated” because she is comprised entirely of awesome.

Put all these things together and what do you get? An idea.

As part of the Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated launch at Dragon*Con, the Skepchicks are organizing vaccine clinic during Dragon*Con. We are providing FREE vaccines for any Dragon*Con participants who want them. We’ll also be distributing information and education about vaccinations during the event.

Here’s where we need your help.  While the vaccines and staffing are being provided completely free to us, because of the late notice, we needed to rent space to actually have the clinic.  We are paying for space in the Mall at Peachtree Center, which is connected to the Dragon*Con main hotels and we need to raise some money to cover the rent, plus posters, pamphlets and other materials to help promote this. Our goal is to raise $1,500 which will cover all of that. Elyse and the Women Thinking Free Foundation have already raised $800 for the launch so we need $700 more. UPDATE: We have reached our goal – thanks so much! If you want to donate, you still can and all additional money will go toward the launch and more events for the Hug Me campaign!

Ironically, Elyse can’t come to Dragon*Con. She would have to bring her daughter with her and she can’t risk it because of the pertussis epidemic. So we’re going to be launching this project without her, very sadly.

If you can, please help out by donating a few dollars to this extraordinarily worthy cause. You can donate via PayPal to [email protected] or by using this handy button here:

Or visit the Women Thinking Free Store and donate there.

This is literally an effort that will save lives. And, if you’re at Dragon*Con, come by and get vaccinated!


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. A nice boost to herd immunity.

    I can’t get a vaccination because I already have an A.S.D. (Asperger’s) and I don’t want a double-Autism. ;)

  2. @filmgirl1977:

    The pertussis vaccine is a series. Each one gives your baby a little bit more immunity. She’s only received one shot so far, and doesn’t get her next one for another month. And since pertussis is one of those things that can kill your baby, and I’m one of those moms who’s all hung up on her baby staying alive, Delaney and I are opting out this year.

    Next year though? I’m there!

  3. @Lisavilisa: Talk to your doctor and find out if your tetanus booster included pertussis. Some do, some don’t. (I found this out the hard way when I got pertussis a couple of years ago, even though I was up to date on my tetanus boosters.)

  4. Excellent idea! I almost died of pertussis at the age of two. I have the tracheotomy scar to prove it, too. A kid’s earliest memory shouldn’t have to be the night nurse adjusting the oxygen tent and clearing the breathing tube.

    Even worse would be for a kid not to get to have any memories. :(

    Hurrah for Vaccines!

  5. I had pertussis as a child. I was probably six or seven years old, and I am an asthmatic. I was lucky to get through it intact. I don’t remember much besides sleeping a lot, but I do remember coughing so hard I could feel the bottom of my lungs. I remember having a moment thinking “Oh, so this is why they call it whooping cough” because I sounded like a crane.
    Get vaccinated!

  6. My Support! You has it. As someone with a kid who was hospitalized from repeated bouts of croup I dont think he would still be with us if he had caught full on pertussis.

  7. I’m not going to Dragon*Con this year, but I passed word of this along to folks who are. I got the question back if this is just the pertussis vaccine or is it Tdap?

    I don’t see that information anywhere. What should I say to my questioner?

  8. Thank you all so much for doing this. I have a comment and a question for you awesome Skepchicks:

    I’m attending another gaming convention (PAX Prime 2010 in Seattle, with an estimated over 60k attendees). Last year the event exacerbated the spread of H1N1 due to travelers in the area spreading it via the airlines they came in or went home on.

    This year, it’s too late, I think, to start something like you’ve done here. (The event is in a week, sept. 3-5) Although I went and got my $80 (YOWCH, no insurance, out of pocket) TDaP shot myself, I would love to be able to organize something like this for future events in the area, especially since there’s also a huge music/food/culture festival in Seattle going on at the same time.

    Is it too late?
    What can I do?
    Is there any way I can do something on such short notice?
    How does one organize such an awesome service such as this?
    Does anyone know how soon the TDaP shot is effective after administration?

    I have many more questions, but I have to leave for work and just wanted to get these thoughts out to you asap.

    What you’re doing is a wonderful, wonderful thing. As a caregiver for infants, I love and appreciate what you’re doing.

  9. @Amoebic:

    I’d say this would be near impossible to do in a week. Maria has kicked a lot of ass to get this done in 3 weeks… and every time it looked like this was going to happen for sure, we ran into an obstacle. This clinic was almost called off on several occasions.

    And Joe Albietz, who ran the vaccine drive at TAM7 said that it took him months of organizing just to be allowed to raise money for vaccines.

    That we’re able to do this is really a testament to Maria’s superheroine powers.

    However, its a great idea to do one at future events! And if there’s any way we can help, let me know!

    Once you know where and when you want to do it, contact your local health department and see where you need to go from there.

  10. @Elyse:

    Thank you! I will definitely keep this in mind for next year. Hopefully last year was enough of a lesson in regards to responsibly handling epidemics. If not, maybe next year the state and the coordinators at PAX would be willing to get involved in this kind of prevention.

    Keep up the good work!

  11. @bkhl: That guy looks almost as old as my school doctor when I was a kid. In the 5th or 6th grade, he gave us all vaccinations for something (no idea what anymore.) I sat on one stool, he sat on a second stool, propped up by the school nurse like Young Mr Grace, and then pointed the needle at my arm and basically fell over into me.

    Dr Griffin was at the time the oldest practicing doctor in the state and, later, when I was in high school, was the oldest living graduate of Harvard Medical School.

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