Hoosier Hero: Colleen Thomas

Colleen has been volunteering with Hoosiers Vaccinate since 2017. In this interview we discuss what motivates her to be an advocate.

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a mom of two boys, both of whom love to play outside, read and play board games. I love to sew and I’m pretty lucky that I get to do it every day as my job. I went to art school and enjoy photography and graphic design.

Where are you from?
I’m originally from the Chicago area and we moved to the Indianapolis area eight years ago to start a family.

When did you first become involved with Hoosiers Vaccinate?
I joined the group as it was forming and helped brainstorm our mission statement. I sat with other parents and sketched out the logo based on input from the group, later finalizing it digitally.

How did you get involved with Hoosiers Vaccinate?
I met Lisa (Director of Indiana Immunization Coalition) over a year ago after being connected with IIC. After expressing my desire to volunteer my time with other parent advocates, she got me working with Hoosiers Vaccinate where I met several other wonderful Indiana parents.

Why do you advocate?
My youngest son was born with an inherited Primary Immunodeficiency condition which makes him highly susceptible to communicable diseases, viruses and infection. His body doesn’t produce a normal amount of IgG cells, meaning he struggles to fight off cold and viruses the same way a child with a healthy immune system would. He has been fully vaccinated but blood test show that his body just can’t mount the immune response for all vaccines that’s needed to build proper immunity. So exposure to something like measles would be dangerous for him, without a proper immune system to fight it off.

What drives you as an immunization advocate?
My son and many other people with his condition rely on herd immunity to protect them from the spread of preventable disease. Before his diagnosis, I was totally unaware of how my immunizations helped others and it was eye opening. I didn’t view immunizations as a public health issue before understanding how they impact an entire population. I want to help other Hoosiers understand how their immunizations have a positive impact for people in their community like my son, people going through chemotherapy and people who can’t receive vaccines due to medical conditions.

How do you advocate?
I share my son’s story locally and online. Unfortunately, the online world has become muddled with a lot of dangerous misinformation surrounding vaccines. People are increasingly turning to online resources for medical advice rather than medical professionals and they are hearing scary sounding misinformation that may leave them hesitant about vaccinating themselves and their children. It’s making it difficult for parents to know what to do. I want to be the counter voice to this misinformation and explain how vaccination has a positive impact on not only their community but their own families.

What do you do when you’re not advocating on behalf of the Hoosier Herd?
I love spending time with my family, traveling, canoeing down the white river, raising chickens and carving out time to sew something for myself every once in a while!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in advocating for immunizations?
Definitely reach out to Hoosiers Vaccinate!

Are you ready to become a Hoosiers Vaccinate advocate? Contact us today!

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