Last Wednesday, I awoke to a distant fire engine’s siren. I was grateful to know that while I was sleeping, the firefighting system, which had been put in place to take care of all of the people in Seattle, was working. Fire is an obvious danger, and we long ago took steps to protect people, wealthy or poor, from that danger.
Now that school is under way, I am grateful to know that because of the obvious danger children facefrom diseases, we have vaccines and immunizations available to protect them.
That is true for our community, and it can be true for the world now, thanks to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped to establish Gavi, so that vaccines can protect children from the dangers of childhood diseases. While it is hard to believe, even in the 21st century, 6.6 million children die every year from diseases that can be easily treated or prevented. In fact, millions of children die each year from pneumonia and diarrhea. Yes, you read that right. In our world today, children die from a type of diarrhea. The good news is we have vaccines that prevent children from dying from either pneumonia or diarrhea.
Thanks to Gavi, we are getting closer to a system in all countries that will routinely vaccinate children against childhood diseases.
Like the fire engines we often take for granted, systems have been set up to make those vaccines available, so that all children can receive them and avoid disease. In the past 15 years, Gavi has saved the lives of six million children. Gavi is working to get even poor countries to adopt sustainable policies so that all children will get vaccines. During the next four years, Gavi’s plan is to provide 300 million more vaccinations, and in doing so save the lives of at least five million children.
Vaccines are the foundation for a health system, permitting other health interventions to be made, too. And it has been shown that adopting the Gavi plan will generate $80 to $100 billion in economic benefits, through health system savings and increased economic productivity. This means vaccination, in addition to saving lives in developing nations, will benefit wealthy countries. For instance, a majority of our products are sold overseas. Vaccinations will enable kids to grow up, become part of their countries’ economy and buy our exports.
In January, the next conference will be held to decide what the world will do about Gavi’s plan. During the next four years, Gavi is seeking a total of $7.5 billion in funding. Let’s be sure that the United States does its part to make it possible for Gavi to reach its goal.
Let’s ask our members of Congress to support the Gavi plan with $250 million in funding a year for the next four years.
If we do, we can all sleep more soundly, knowing that a plan will be adopted to protect all children from the inevitable danger posed by childhood diseases.