The Fight to Replenish the GAVI Alliance for Vaccine Fund

Shouldn’t a child be given the same shot of life no matter where he or she is born? I believe that children everywhere deserve the chance to live and reach their full potential. The availability of life-saving vaccines for every child is critical.


For those of you who have followed my blog for years, you know that besides blogging I am also an active advocate and activist for a number of important causes. I advocate for the ONE Campaign to eradicate global poverty, ONE Women and Girls to help elevate the status and well-being of women and girls around the world, RESULTS (another advocacy group that works to advocate with our members of Congress to affect policy on ending poverty) and the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign, a grassroots organization aimed at providing global vaccines to the developing world. All of these causes are truly important to me and I am amazed how much I’ve personally grown by being a part of each organization and using my voice to effect positive change.

As an advocate for global vaccines, I’ve worked hard as a Shot@Life Champion since the campaign launched almost three years ago. Working with Shot@Life has taught me many things about the value of vaccines and the importance of their availability around the world in saving lives. Before I joined Shot@Life, I had no idea that every twenty seconds a child dies from a vaccine-preventable death. Every twenty seconds!

The tragic statistics combined with the reality that this is a fixable, solvable problem that truly does not cost much, invigorated me to join the cause and fight for funding of global vaccines.

Young girls in Mozambique show off their newly updated vaccination card.  All photos : Shot@Life--UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

Young girls in Mozambique show off their newly updated vaccination card.
Shot@Life–UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

This January, world leaders are meeting to discuss the replenishment of the GAVI global fund for vaccines. This meeting comes at a critical moment in time. A time where we have seen amazing progress in the reduction of under age five deaths thanks to the provision of global vaccines.

At the meeting,  global leaders and private donors will make commitments for the next five-year plan of GAVI’s funding (years 2016-2020). The goal is to achieve 7.5 billion, and the United States, one of the top four funders of the GAVI Alliance, is being asked to commit to 1 billion dollars. It is an ambitious and reasonable goal. (In case you are wondering, the top donor last year was the UK, followed by the Gates Foundation and Norway. The US came in fourth).

We have made significant progress in combatting preventable deaths in children under age 5 by providing access to vaccines.

We have made significant progress in combatting preventable deaths in children under age 5 by providing access to vaccines. Photo credit: Gavi Alliance

Before I dive into GAVI and their great work, I’d like to tell a story. In early September I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Namala Patrick Mkopi, the Secretary General of Tanzania’s Pediatric Association. I met Dr. Mkopi for lunch and he shared firsthand stories about what he has seen as a pediatrician in Africa. The two leading killers of children under age five are diarrhea and pneumonia. Together they kill one in every four children in the world, and both are preventable by vaccines.

Me meeting Dr. Mkopi in Minneapolis.

Me meeting Dr. Mkopi in Minneapolis.

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World Pneumonia Day 2012

Today is World Pneumonia Day. Did you know that pneumonia is the biggest threat to children worldwide and that we have a vaccine available that can prevent it?

Were you aware that every 20 seconds a child dies from pneumonia, a largely preventable and treatable disease?

Here are some facts on pneumonia and the devastating impact this treatable disease has on child survival. (Source: Action: Global Health Advocacy Partnership):

“Pneumonia is the world’s leading killer of children under the age of 5, causing nearly 1.3 million child deaths each year.  Developing countries, and particularly the poorest children within them, are the hardest hit, accounting for 99% of childhood deaths due to pneumonia.

We know how to prevent these deaths. In fact, investments in protecting, preventing, and treating children have led to significant gains in reducing under-five deaths. Although pneumonia kills nearly twice as many children each year than both HIV/AIDS and malaria combined, global funding for pneumonia is significantly lower than funding for HIV/AIDS and malaria control. This silent killer is still responsible for one out of every five child deaths, despite having the tools to prevent and treat it.”

Although much progress has been made towards fighting devastating diseases that has improved child mortality rates across the globe, we aren’t finished yet. The fact that a child is dying every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable death such as pneumonia is unexcusable and unacceptable.

We have the technology and the knowledge to save lives.

Now we need to convince the government to follow through on the promises and commitments made to fund and support programs such as GAVI (that provides vaccines to children in the developing world) and to Front Line Health Care Workers, who are often the only medical attention children will receive.

How can I take ACTION?

  • Write a letter to your government.
  • Meet with your member of Congress or Parliament.
  • Raise awareness in your community.
  • Express your opinion in your local newspaper.
  • Produce a video or write a blog (like I am doing here).
  • Participate in community events.
  • Only have a few minutes? Sign a pledge to end preventable child deaths with World Vision, or A Promise Renewed!

Learn more at

My kids and me advocating for Shot@Life last spring.

This post was written on behalf of my advocacy for RESULTS, Shot@Life and ONE. I am meeting with my Congressman next Monday and will be sure to remind him to support funding for Child Survival. With less than 1% of our budget spent on foreign aid, there is a lot to be done. However, I am confident we will make the right decisions and help save lives.  No child shouldn’t be able to celebrate their fifth birthday because they are too poor.


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