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Behind on Recommended Vaccinations? Gabrielle Union-Wade Wants You to Get Caught Up

Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade in their kitchen

Courtesy of Gabrielle Union-Wade

You’ve probably skipped out on a lot of things during the COVID-19 pandemic. But doctor well-visits shouldn't be one of them. 

Gabrielle Union-Wade is partnering with Vaccinate Your Family and Merck for a new public health campaign called Don’t Skip, which encourages people to see their doctors for well-person visits and get caught up on recommended vaccines. 

Childhood routine vaccination rates fell sharply during 2020, likely as a result of stay-at-home orders and people's concerns of catching the virus in a doctor's office. But when adults and children skip well-visits or fall behind on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC's) schedule for recommended vaccinations, they miss out on necessary health care. They even risk spreading dangerous diseases that are otherwise vaccine-preventable.


Union-Wade spoke with Verywell Health Chief Medical Officer Jessica Shepherd, MD, to talk about why it’s so important to check in with your doctor and get vaccinated, especially as schools and other public spaces reopen in the upcoming weeks and months. 

Jessica Shepherd, MD: I'm a mom of two boys and I know that you're a mom, too. How important is child health advocacy to you, and why did you want to join the Don’t Skip campaign? 

Gabrielle Union-Wade: The health and wellness of our family is of utmost importance to my husband and me. We come from the Midwest, and we come from families that didn't really have much, so being able to see a doctor was a privilege. As we grew up and started our own families, we never wanted health care to feel like a luxury. We wanted it to be normal, just a part of our lives, and we wanted to try to help provide that for as many people as possible, whether that be through information, resources, or donations. We've always prioritized health and wellness in our families and communities. It is a big deal for us. 

Dr. Shepherd: These are issues that are very important to us as mothers, but as Black mothers especially. Because, in certain communities, there are health disparities or inequities. It’s so important to make sure that people hear about the importance of never missing a visit, never missing a vaccination. What are your thoughts on vaccines in general?

Union-Wade: They're there to help protect ourselves, our communities, and our loved ones from serious diseases. The Don't Skip campaign is specifically about doctor visits—making sure that you schedule your doctor well-visits and making sure that kids are up to date on all the vaccinations that schools require. What we saw in 2020 during the pandemic was a drastic drop in well-visits and doctor-recommended vaccines—a rather alarming drop. And as we're headed back to school—and, some schools have already been in session for a while—it’s important that parents are reminded to just check in with their doctors. 

Vaccines are free. There are a number of resources to help you find those free vaccines for your children. We skipped a lot of things during the pandemic, but please do not skip your well-visits with your doctor and all of those doctor-recommended vaccines. For me and my family, we are up to date on all of our vaccines—anything that we are eligible for, we are up to date on. It's a priority for us, just as good, global citizens, doing our part to not only keep our family safe, but helping to ensure that our schools are safe, that our communities are safe. 

Finding Free or Low-Cost Vaccines

There are a number of places to find no or low cost vaccinations for children. The Vaccines for Children (VCF) program provides free vaccines for children who are underinsured or uninsured. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helps families access lower cost vaccines if their income is too high to qualify for Medicaid. Check out more information about finding low cost or free vaccines here.

We want to use our platform to just kindly remind parents to make sure that your children are up to date on vaccinations and pointing folks toward those resources. Luckily, we have a healthcare system in this country that keeps great track of where you're at with your health. 

If you've moved during COVID, if you just have never had a healthcare professional that you are able to see consistently, or if you're not really sure if you're up to date on those doctor-recommended vaccines, there's a number of resources that can get you that information. We strongly encourage everyone to go to DontSkipVaccines.com to get all of those resources and that information that you may need to make sure that your family is protected. 

Dr. Shepherd: As you said, the pandemic really brought about this need to be isolated, with many people thinking, “We're not going out, we're not going to the doctor or making those well-person visits and preventative visits.” So I'm glad that you, as a mother, can really push that message forward, to highlight the importance of vaccination. 

What would you say to someone who is having moments of hesitancy or doesn’t know what the first steps to vaccination might be, especially if that person is living in a community with health disparities?

Union-Wade: First, DontSkipVaccines.com is an amazing resource to point you in the right direction of free vaccines and free or low cost health care. It also helps you walk through some of the bureaucracy with health insurance.

But that's what that website is for. It connects you with all of those resources because if we feel like we can't afford it, that's it. We might say, “Don't get sick; we can't afford the doctor.” But I just want to remind people that health care is a right, and that vaccines in this country are free. 

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  1. Patel Murthy B, Zell E, Kirtland K, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on administration of selected routine childhood and adolescent vaccinations — 10 U.S. jurisdictions, March–September 2020MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(23):840-845. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7023a2

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Immunization Schedules. Updated February 11, 2021.

  3. Patel Murthy B, Zell E, Kirtland K, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on administration of selected routine childhood and adolescent vaccinations — 10 U.S. jurisdictions, March–September 2020MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2021;70(23):840-845. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7023a2