Preparing to Take Action: U.S. Support for Global Vaccines

01.20.2012 by

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There are many ways to show your support for the children who benefit from Shot@Life. One significant step you can take is to let our elected officials know why you care and ask them to continue to invest in global immunization programs.

That’s why advocacy is a big part of the Shot@Life campaign – because it is important that the US government continues to prioritize childhood vaccination within its global health and development work, to ensure that life-saving vaccines reach the children who need them the most.

Shot@Life is asking that you use your time and your voice to advocate to decision makers about the importance of global vaccines, and to bring the Shot@Life movement to Capitol Hill. By supporting Shot@Life, you’re joining a long-term advocacy network that will educate policymakers and the public on the importance of life-saving vaccines for children in developing countries.

Shot@Life has produced this new educational blog series to show you the ways the US government engages in global vaccination efforts, and to prepare you to take action in support of the US’ role in global vaccines.

Let’s get started with a few questions you may have about why the U.S. supports global vaccine efforts around the world.

Why does the US government help support global vaccination efforts in developing countries?

The US has made a mark in global health for decades, including efforts to eradicate yellow fever under President Theodore Roosevelt; President George W. Bush’s major investment in HIV/AIDS; and the Global Health Initiative led by President Barack Obama. The US is a critical leader in global health, not only because saving lives is the right thing to do, but also because it protects America’s interests at home and abroad.

Vaccines are often referred to as “public health’s best buy” because they are extremely cost-effective. They aid in development through direct medical savings for families and medical facilities, and indirect economic benefits such as improved cognitive development in children, higher educational attainment, increased labor productivity, and higher income earnings.

Expanding access to vaccines in developing countries not only improves the health and productivity of people living in those countries, it also benefits the US. Infectious diseases know no boundaries, especially in a world where international travel is so common. Today, more than ever before, the health of American citizens is linked to outbreaks of diseases in other countries.

How does the US government engage in vaccination efforts for children around the world?

The US has been deeply involved in global vaccination efforts for decades and continues to be a leader, working collaboratively with partners to provide vaccines to developing countries by expanding resources and delivery mechanisms for critical vaccination programs. This collaboration has enabled countries to meet critical immunization milestones and reduce childhood deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases.

The US is directly involved in on-the-ground vaccination efforts in developing countries through the work of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Together with other donor countries, the private sector, and philanthropic organizations, the US also supports and invests in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI).

  • What is the CDC’s role?

    The CDC has a broad role and influence in the field of global immunizations. Since 1991, Congress has provided the CDC with funding for global vaccination programs, allocating funds for polio eradication, measles mortality reduction and strengthening routine immunizations. The CDC also works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and other partners including the World Bank and American Red Cross to ensure that children around the world receive life-saving vaccines.

  • How does USAID help?

    Immunization programs are a critical piece of USAID’s work on children’s health issues in developing countries. For nearly two decades, USAID has provided assistance to more than 100 countries in support of child immunization programs. Their support has been directed at increasing demand for immunization services, training health workers, improving the quality of services delivered, and improving vaccine logistics.

  • Where does GAVI come in?

    GAVI is dedicated to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to vaccines in developing countries. The public and private entities that make up GAVI work to strengthen health systems and educate local health providers to ensure efficiency and sustainability of global vaccination efforts. By the end of 2010, GAVI had supported the immunization of 326 million additional children, who might not otherwise have had access to vaccines, and prevented over five million future deaths.

    GAVI has brought a single-minded focus to the urgent task of closing three critical gaps: between children for whom immunization is a given and the 23.2 million children worldwide with no access to vaccines; between the introduction of a new vaccine in rich countries and the average 10-15 years required for the same vaccine to reach low-income countries, and; between the need for new vaccines in developing countries and the lack of research and funds to provide them.

  • How does the United Nations factor in?

    UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. With the belief that it is wrong for a child to suffer from a preventable illness, UNICEF has been a leader in polio eradication and immunization efforts. Through its efforts with WHO and partners, more than 106 million children were vaccinated in 2008 and global immunization rates increased to their highest level ever. UNICEF continues its work to support global immunization efforts with its partners to provide each child with an equal chance at life.

Do you want to get involved in helping Shot@Life advocate for global vaccines? Join us! Add your voice to a movement of people who have banded together to ensure life-saving vaccines get to the children who need them most, no matter where they live.

Keep your eyes open – we’ll be featuring additional blog posts in our advocacy education series in the coming weeks to help prepare you to take action!

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