Last January I attended the United Nation’s Foundation Shot@Life Champion Summit in Washington DC and became a global health advocate. Along with 45 women and men across the country, I was trained in all areas of advocacy, social media and fundraising in order to become a grassroots advocate for providing life-saving vaccines to children around the world.
The journey has changed my life and has opened more doors to the future than I ever thought possible. Not only did I meet with my representatives on Capital Hill in July to lobby for global vaccines, I have also raised money to help vaccinate many children around the world who I will never know. The exciting news is that my journey with Shot@Life has only just began. This weekend, I will be headed back to DC as one of ten mentors for the Shot@Life Campaign where we will be training 100 new champions to help spread the word and raise awareness about global vaccines.
In this new role, I will help train and mentor new advocates while continuing my role as a Shot@Life advocate, fundraiser and voice. Currently there are 300 Shot@Life Champions spread out across the US and the plan is to grow the movement to 500 Champions over the next year. One of many important partners of the Shot@Life campaign is The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Eradicating polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases has been one of the Gates Foundation’s biggest goals since its inception.
In June 2011, Gates pledged $1 billion to help vaccinate children around the world against preventable diseases like pneumonia and polio. Just last week, in an interview with journalist, Neil Tweedie, Gates stated “I have no use for money. This is God’s work” and said that he “intends to eradicate polio, with the same drive he brought to Microsoft” .
The eradication of polio, a debilitating disease which once paralyzed over 400,000 children every year has recently had enormous success thanks to the introduction of the polio vaccine and increased polio vaccination worldwide. We are at a historic moment in time when we can almost see the end of polio. Polio currently remains only in three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria and just last year India declared herself polio-free, a huge success story. Polio existed in 125 countries only a couple of decades ago in the late 80s.
Bill Gates states that “Polio eradication is a proving ground, a test. It will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we can be about our future“. As the single most influential voice in global health (The Gates Foundation has already given away nearly $28 billion of their fortune, with $8 billion going to improve global health), Gates is a voice to be heard loud and clear.
Per Gates interview with Ned Tweedie of the Telegraph:
“My wife and I had a long dialogue about how we were going to take the wealth that we’re lucky enough to have and give it back in a way that’s most impactful to the world,” he says. “Both of us worked at Microsoft and saw that if you take innovation and smart people, the ability to measure what’s working, that you can pull together some pretty dramatic things. We’re focused on the help of the poorest in the world, which really drives you into vaccination. You can actually take a disease and get rid of it altogether, like we are doing with polio.This has been done only once before in humans, with the eradication of smallpox in the 1970s. Polio’s pretty special because once you get an eradication you no longer have to spend money on it; it’s just there as a gift for the rest of time.”
Polio eradication is just one of the vaccine preventable diseases we are fighting for with Shot@Life. I am honored to be part of such a worthy cause and look forward to advocating on Capital Hill to help give more children the shot at life they deserve. Look for more details on my visit to DC and work with Shot@Life soon!
“Bill Gates: The world can defeat polio” (BBS, 1/27/13)