World Immunization Week will be observed April 24-30. There is no doubt that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has upended life around the world in an unprecedented way. If we didn’t appreciate the critical role that vaccinations have had in protecting lives before this life-threatening pandemic occurred, most of us now understand the importance of immunizations as we wait and hope that an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be developed to protect us going forward.

Strong health systems remain critical to global preparedness for disease outbreaks. Investing in routine immunization, primary health care, and community health workers bolsters a nation’s ability to handle both common illnesses and unanticipated health concerns like the emergence of novel pathogens. The stress many feel amid this outbreak is not so different from the day-to-day stress medically vulnerable people feel when we fail to achieve population-wide immunity for vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.  One and a half million children die each year from diseases like measles that could have been prevented by a vaccine. This is because one in five children in the world still lacks access to the basic childhood vaccines we take for granted here in the United States.  

The United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life “Advocate 2 Vaccinate” campaign is asking U.S. legislators to help reduce vaccine-preventable childhood deaths around the world by providing adequate funding for global vaccine programs.

Although likely a year away from being available to the public, a coronavirus vaccine will provide the best line of defense against the disease. However, developing a vaccine that is safe and effective takes time and investment. The ongoing outbreak underscores the need for robust funding for vaccine research and procurement, the kind of CDC and USAID funding that Shot@Life routinely advocates for during appropriations season.  For every $1 spent on immunizations, the world sees $54 in economic benefits. Funding for global vaccine programs is significantly less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget.

As a volunteer Shot@Life Champion, I am once again urging you to contact the offices of Congressman Butterfield and Senators Burr and Tillis. Please ask them to prioritize and even strengthen funding for global vaccine programs through partners such as the United Nations, Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), CDC, and USAID.

Today’s COVID-19 pandemic underscores the fact that an outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere.  We all have a stake in keeping our children and our communities safe from infectious disease.

LINDA BROWNE

GFWC Warrenton Woman’s Club member

Macon