Millions of American children returned to school this month, and most have received vaccines that will protect them against serious diseases. However, in many poorer countries, getting life-saving vaccines to the children who need them is an ongoing challenge. In fact, 22 million children worldwide don’t receive basic immunizations each year, and 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die as a result. That’s one death every 20 seconds that could have been prevented by vaccines.
Vaccines are essential building blocks for healthy lives.
To help tackle this problem, the United Nations Foundation and its partners have come up with a novel idea. Appropriately named “Get A Shot, Give A Shot,” this campaign builds on the foundation's Shot@Life initiative. For every vaccine administered as part of the campaign between August 1 and October 14, a life-saving vaccine will be donated for children in developing countries. Last year, the campaign provided 3 million vaccines to children in developing countries, and I’m hopeful we’ll see this remarkable achievement replicated this year.
In the U.S. and other wealthy countries, we’ve come to take routine immunizations for granted. But in many poor countries, access to essential vaccines is limited. That’s why partnerships like the one between the United Nations Foundation and Walgreens are so important. And it’s why alliances such as Gavi – one of the primary beneficiaries of the campaign – are so important. Gavi is a public-private partnership created to increase access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries. Since its inception nearly 15 years ago, Gavi has helped save 6 million lives by immunizing nearly half a billion children against deadly diseases. Up to 300 million more children could be immunized and 6 million more lives saved if donors continue to invest in Gavi through 2020.
Vaccines are essential building blocks for healthy lives. As a physician, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing fully vaccinated children grow up to be healthy, productive adults contributing to their communities.
I appreciate the value of vaccines and make sure my family and I receive them. As you can see in the picture above, I recently got a booster shot for polio before traveling to Pakistan, one of the final hiding places for a disease we’re very close to eradicating worldwide, thanks to vaccines.
As children in your family and neighborhood return to school, and as the flu season approaches, I hope you take advantage of the opportunity to get a shot, and give a shot to save children’s lives around the world.