World Polio Day (Oct. 24) and World Pneumonia Day (Nov. 12) remind us that strong health systems are critical to global preparedness for disease outbreaks. Volunteers across the country are mobilizing in their communities to raise awareness about the lifesaving potential of vaccines and about the critical importance of funding global immunization programs in the U.S. budget. 

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 and appreciate the importance of immunizations. Vaccines have proven to be the best line of defense against the disease.  

The United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life “Mobilize to Immunize”campaign is asking U.S. legislators to help reduce vaccine-preventable childhood deaths around the world by providing adequate funding for global vaccine programs. Developing a vaccine that is safe and effective takes time and investment. The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for robust funding for vaccine research and procurement, the kind of CDC and USAID funding that Shot@Liferoutinely advocates for during appropriations season. By expanding access to existing vaccines, we can save a child’s life every 20 seconds. For every $1 spent on immunizations, the world sees $44 in economic benefits.  Funding for global vaccine programs is significantly less than 1 percent of the U.S. federal budget.   

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 we feel during this current pandemic is comparable to the daily stress of medically vulnerable people when we fail to achieve population-wide immunity for vaccine-preventable diseases. One and a half million children die each year from diseases like measles that could have been prevented by a vaccine. One in five children around the world still lacks access to the basic vaccines we take for granted here in the United States.  

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

The COVID-19 pandemic clearly 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. Expanding vaccine access is not only beneficial to country economies, national security, and global stability—it’s also the right thing to do.

LINDA BROWNE, Member

GFWC Warrenton Woman’s Club