Last week the Shot@Life team welcomed advocates to Washington, D.C. for our first in-person Summit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 100 advocates attended and had the opportunity to reunite with fellow advocates, hear from global health experts, and meet with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, spreading the message that we need lifesaving #VaccinesForAll.
This year’s Summit included advocates from 34 states who met with more than 140 congressional offices and shared why we need increased funding for global immunization programs. According to our feedback form, 89% of Shot@Life advocates reported having positive interactions with congressional staff, and 82% of offices seemed receptive to requests for funding global vaccine programs in the 2024 budget.
In addition to the campaign’s request for increased funding, advocates also asked members of Congress to sign the 2024 Global Polio Eradication “Dear Colleague” letter and advocate for global child immunization activities on social media during this year’s World Immunization Week (April 24-30).
This year, Shot@Life was fortunate to have UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, deliver a keynote address. Though she was on a humanitarian mission to Türkiye and Syria, she took the time to express her gratitude for our advocates and their lifesaving efforts. She emphasized the urgent need for the world to strengthen our health systems and recover immunization rates that decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocate to Vaccine Summit 2023: UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell Keynote Address
Advocates were fortunate to also hear talks from representatives from the World Health Organization, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID, Geneva Learning Foundation, CSL Seqirus, and Takeda. Here are some highlights from our speakers:
“If there would be one take home from this discussion, I would hope it is this: That gap from having the right tool to actually reaching that last child who is at risk of paralysis, that is what matters.” — Dr. Ananda Bandyopadhyay, Deputy Director of Polio at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
“The only way we will get vaccinations into arms is if we build a system of immunization and infrastructure. We have to build a culture of immunization across the lifespan.” — Stewart Simonson, Director of WHO Office at the United Nations
“Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do. To turn a vaccine into a vaccination, many things must happen, including communication.” — Jessica Malaty-Rivera, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and social media influencer
At the Summit, Shot@Life’s Sydney Bonds presented a new resource, a StoryMap about measles. This interactive online tool maps measles cases around the world, highlights stories of survivors and health care workers and shows the impact vaccines have had against this disease. Through the StoryMap, you can explore the many challenges that hinder the distribution of measles vaccines and the havoc the disease wreaks on families and communities around the world.
“I feel both motivated and inspired to continue to fight for global childhood vaccination. We truly have the power, drive, and commitment to go from one eradicated virus to two, making the final strides against polio!” — Alondra Solis, California, Student at UC Berkeley
“Going to the Summit was one of the best experiences for me. It was very organized, nice people, I felt like I was at a reunion with people I had never met before!” — Beya Grace Kabengela, Virginia, Community Healthcare Worker at the Eastern Virginia Medical School
“I definitely felt a connection with my members of Congress. It was a really cool experience, especially to do it for two states — Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Hearing both representatives agree with what we were saying and open to staying in communication was a pleasant experience.” — Aaron Connolly, Massachusetts, MPH Student at Cornell University
We want to extend our sincerest gratitude to all our speakers and panelists at this year’s Summit.
Last but not least, a huge congratulations and thank you to our global partners and the UN Foundation and Shot@Life team for making this year’s Summit a success!
We look forward to kicking off Advocate to Vaccinate this spring and seeing many of you at our next Summit!