May 15, 2012 09:00 AM

Courtesy Shot@Life

Her latest show may have been canceled, but Amanda Peet is still Bent out of shape over the vaccination debate.

After her daughter Molly June contracted whooping cough in 2010, the severity of the epidemic hit home — literally — and now the actress is determined to spread the word to save other children from a similar fate.

“It was pretty scary,” Peet, 40, tells PEOPLE. “It took a long time to figure out what was wrong. No one would think it’s whooping cough.”

After being treated with antibiotics, her now 2-year-old fully recovered, yet the experience had a huge impact on Peet, who is also mom to daughter Frankie, 5, with her husband, Game of Thrones producer and screenwriter David Benioff.

“The [Centers of Disease Control] called me and we had to report it,” says the actress who lives in California, which has had the largest outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, in decades. Though Peet’s daughter had received two pertussis vaccinations, she was too young to receive all recommended doses.

Rattled by the experience, Peet became a spokesman for Every Child by Two, an organization that encourages vaccinations. She also became a global advocate for the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life program which promotes vaccines for measles, pneumonia, diarrhea and polio in developing countries.

“I feel so passionately about this topic,” Peet told PEOPLE as Shot@Life unveiled a new public service announcement at Times Square. “The thing that moves me is that we have a cure for these diseases. We have the medicine — we just have to get it to the children.”

She continues, “If moms in the U.S. banded together, we could be on the right side of history. Let’s get it done. It’s not just about your kids, but about your neighbor’s kids, everyone’s kids.”

— Joanne Fowler

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