Melody Anne Butler, BSN, RN, is a multi-tasker. She is a pediatric nurse, working the night shift at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in Lindenhurst, N.Y. While raising four small children, she completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing and is working toward becoming a certified pediatric nurse. During an interview for this story, she kept an eye on her children while finishing the laundry. Add to all of this that she is also a staunch supporter of vaccine advocacy, creator of a vaccine advocacy site, and a champion of the United Nations campaign to immunize children around the globe. “If I’m not constantly doing something,” she says, “there’s something wrong.”
Melody wasn’t always an advocate for vaccinations. Like all nurses, she learned about them in nursing school. She knew about infectious diseases and had read about outbreaks in medical news updates. But it wasn’t until an outbreak of the H1N1 flu in 2009 when Melody was pregnant with her third child that she started to pay closer attention. The state of New York was mandating influenza vaccination for all nurses, but she was hesitant after seeing “scare” reports on television and the Internet. However, as a nurse, she couldn’t escape coming in contact with influenza patients. She was concerned that if she did not get the vaccine, her unborn baby would be unprotected. Perhaps her job would be in jeopardy. She was torn.
Melody’s conflict came to a head when she had a conversation with her clinical nurse educator who had urged Melody to receive the influenza vaccine. Melody told her clinical nurse educator that she had read that the flu vaccine could be dangerous for pregnant women. One by one, the clinical nurse educator debunked each erroneous claim that Melody offered by countering with evidence-based research. Slowly, Melody realized that, despite being a registered nurse with a college education, she had fallen for a scam. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was to be misled,” she says. Melody became one of the first nurses in her hospital to receive the influenza vaccine that year.
Nurses Who Vaccinate
Now wiser about misinformation relating to vaccines, Melody began to notice information about vaccines on Facebook and Twitter that was being posted by people who claimed to be nurses. One of these was a Facebook page called Nurses Who Don’t Vaccinate, an anti-vaccine site that accused nurses of being part of a conspiracy to harm patients. Melody was livid. She searched for a Facebook page that offered accurate information about vaccines but couldn’t find one. Melody resolved to do what she could to make accurate, fact-based information available. It was this push that eventually led her to create an information hub called Nurses Who Vaccinate. She also started a Nurses Who Vaccinate blogspot, a Nurses Who Vax Twitter account, and posted to Instagram and Pinterest. Her goal was to make credible information about vaccines available on every social media platform. Her target audience is nurses, health care workers, nursing assistants, and doctors—basically anyone who wants to be a vocal supporter of vaccines—including parents looking for resources and answers to their questions.
Because of her efforts to make evidence-based information about vaccines available to nurses and the general public, Melody has been named The Protector in Mosby’s search for the Superheroes of Nursing. The Protector stands strong and ready to step in at a moment’s notice to keep everyone safe in the pursuit of outstanding care. As a vaccine advocate, Melody is all about protecting everyone. “When you advocate for vaccines, you are protecting everyone, including those who can’t be vaccinated,” she explains. “Nurses who vaccinate themselves are protecting themselves and their patients. It’s a very big deal.”
With support and some help from her husband, Melody started the Nurses Who Vaccinate Facebook page in 2011 and continues to use it to respond to online parenting forums that publicize inaccurate information about vaccines. Her initiatives caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal, and she was quoted in a story about protecting infants from pertussis. She has also been invited to participate with other pro-vaccine organizations, including Every Child by Two, Vaccinate Your Baby, and Shot of Prevention. She is also a global health champion for the [email protected] foundation, a United Nations campaign to immunize children around the globe. She is especially proud of her affiliation with Voices for Vaccines. A parent-driven organization, this site is supported by scientists, doctors, and public health officials and provides parents with clear, science-based information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases. Melody serves on the Parent Advisory Board and helps to create toolkits for parents to educate their families and communities about the importance of vaccinating themselves and their children. “We encourage parents to feel confident enough to be vocal and to become strong advocates of vaccination so that when they encounter incorrect information they speak up,” she says, “and we direct them to sources of accurate information.”
Melody is fervent about her cause. “Vaccines are truly lifesaving,” she says. “They represent the best defense against diseases and, this year alone, will prevent 33,000 deaths and 14 million infections. As healthcare workers, we are designated vaccine ambassadors, and we must continue to do our part in educating and promoting vaccines. Health education and preventing disease is a 24-hour job for all of us.”