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An Important Step in Congress for Protecting Children’s Health

Peter Yeo, Vice President for Public Policy, United Nations Foundation

When we talk about vaccines, we usually talk about impact. We talk about the millions of lives saved, we talk about progress made and we talk about the healthier world they build. All of that is true, and all of that is incredibly important. But today, I want to talk about the critical role that our elected officials play in this story.

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Resolution 578, supporting the role of the United States in ensuring that children in the world’s poorest countries have access to vaccines and immunization through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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US Capitol building in Washington. Credit: Rob Crawley/Flickr

Its support is well-founded: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called vaccines one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Gavi has played a key role in continuing that success in the 21st century by expanding access to life-saving vaccines: Since 2000, Gavi has helped immunize close to half a billion children, saving six million lives in the process.

So, why does this resolution matter? The US Congress plays a huge part in ensuring vaccines reach the children that need them most by making decisions every year about which programs to support, including Gavi’s life-saving global immunization programs. This resolution shows strong bipartisan support among US senators for Gavi and other global immunization efforts. By giving Gavi this vote of confidence, these senators are helping build a groundswell of support, which helps galvanize other countries to do the same – building global political will.

The backing of US legislators could not come at a more critical time. In January, Gavi will convene a replenishment to mobilize resources from global donors – $7.5 billion to be exact – for Gavi’s next strategic period, 2016-2020. Many countries now are making decisions about how much to give – including the US. With these resources, Gavi estimates that it can help immunize 300 million additional children, resulting in 5 million to 6 million lives saved. That’s worth getting excited about.

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Schoolchildren during a vaccination campaign in Tanzania this year. Credit: Gavi/Karel Prinsloo.

On behalf of Shot@Life and our supporters across the country, we want to extend our sincere appreciation to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Bob Menedez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE) and John Boozman (R-AR) – the drivers of this resolution – for their continued leadership in support of an impactful partnership that is saving and improving the lives of millions of children in developing countries.

Now, we just need a vote on the Senate floor. Support from Congress for Gavi- as reflected in passage of the Resolution- will hopefully be part of a $1 billion commitment from the United States.

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