This year, two mushers will be carrying special packages on their sleds to make a special delivery in Nome.
In order to promote vaccine awareness, Martin Buser and Aliy Zirkle will carry vaccine from Anchorage to Nome. Vaccines are given to children to help prevent various diseases. This event is being organized by Lisa Schobert, Vaccine Coordinator and Dawn Sawyer, PA. The I DID IT BY TWO: Race To Vaccinate program has been working hard to encourage people to have their children immunized. The program has done several events to promote their cause including providing dog jackets for the Iditarod race dogs on start day, giving families mushing themed charts to track their immunizations, and many more. The I DID IT BY TWO slogan is to remind families:
I – Iditarod
DID – Did you know that children need 80% of their childhood vaccines by age 2?
IT – It can seem a little complicated keeping up with recommended immunizations, but the payoff is big!
BY – by immunizing your children on-time by age…
Lisa tells me that she chose Martin Buser to help with the project because he has worked with the I DID It By Two group before and is a great spokesman for the campaign. He will be carrying the DTAP. This vaccine is given to children between the ages of two months and six years. The DTAP is a vaccine given to children to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). The organizers think that with Martin’s playful personality, he may actually pass the vaccines off to other mushers to carry down the trail! That would be in keeping with the spirit of the original serum run which was actually a relay.
Aliy Zirkle was asked to participate because Lisa wanted a front line contender, and with second place finishes in the last two races, Aliy certainly meets that criteria. Knowing how competitive she is, Aliy will most likely put the vaccine in her sled and run her race! She will be carrying Tdap vaccine which is used for adolescents and adults. Tdap stands for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and is used for people aged seven and older.
Each musher will get a box of ten vials to transport and they can package them however they would like to. Each box weighs 2.3 ounces. This made me think of the classic, “Can you package an egg and drop it off the roof?” science experiment. So here’s a little Iditarod themed twist on that activity: Protect that Vaccine
Here are some photos to share with your kids to show what the vials will look like:
The temperatures that the vaccines are stored at are very, very important. If the vaccines are not kept between 35-46 degrees F they cannot be given to patients. Lisa explained to me that if the refrigerator door is left open or someone goes in and out of the refrigerator a lot, the inside temperature can be affected. They use a Data Logger to continually monitor the temperatures of the vaccines as they travel from one location to another. The logger, which is similar to a thumb drive, can record temperatures for fifty-six days. Then when the vaccines and logger arrive at their final location, the data can be loaded onto the computer and the temperature information can be displayed in a graph form. My class has been given a data logger to experiment with, but you can replicate this with a basic thermometer and a refrigerator at home or school: Keeping the Vaccines Cold
Obviously, to many people, the Iditarod has come to serve as a reminder of the 1925 Serum Run. That was not Joe Redington, Sr.’s main objective though. His main goals in establishing the race were to project the sled dogs and their role in the culture of Alaska and to save the historic Iditarod Trail. The Serum Run definitely has a huge role in the history of Alaska and the history of the Iditarod Trail, so it’s kind of neat to see this event as a way to bring the message of the importance of immunizations to villages on the trail. Here is more on the history of the race and the reasons it started from Katie Mangelsdorf: Bustingmyth
The go-to picture book for kids to learn about the Serum Run is the Great Serum Race by Debbie Miller. You can also join the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for a Distance Learning Program about Balto. I wrote about that here: LINK
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a great PDF file you could print to give some kids the story behind the Serum Run. It even has a picture of the original vials to compare to the ones Zirkle and Buser will be carrying this year: LINK
Here’s a Venn Diagram you could use to compare the Serum Run with the modern trip the vaccines will be taking with Aliy and Martin this year. VennDiagram
For a writing piece, students could write and record radio spots, like public service announcements for the I DID IT BY TWO Campaign.
The official Press Release is here: January Press Release – Vaccine
You can learn more about this project here: LINK
I will have more information soon about other mushers who are “mushing for a cause” or using their Iditarod runs to bring awareness about causes near and dear to their hearts!