Readers’ Forum: Reach out to your congressmen regarding global vaccination access, equity

Reader’s Forum author Mary Singer encourages people to reach out to their congressmen regarding vaccine accessibility. (Universe Archives)

Every 20 seconds a child dies of a vaccine-preventable disease. That’s three kids a minute; over 4,000 every single day; over one and a half million children every year. This is tragic, not only for the sheer number of children dying, but because these deaths are preventable.

This is an issue that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic as millions of children missed out on basic, lifesaving vaccines.

Here in the United States, but especially in Utah and at BYU, we have a lot of privileges, and our access to quality medical care is one of the greatest.

When I caught pneumonia as a child, my parents were never worried I would die. But hundreds of thousands of people die of it every year (one child every 39 seconds). Many of us have served missions where we had the opportunity to serve and love people whose life circumstances are very different from our own. And many of those people we served and loved are at risk due to limited access to medical care. On my own mission in Oakland, California, I had the opportunity to teach and serve people from all six inhabited continents. The people I met and taught had drastically different life experiences from my own, and most of them grew up in extreme poverty. Many of them did not have access to the same medical care and resources that we expect here. 

Vaccines save over four million lives every single year, and they could save even more if more people have access to them. The United States helps expand global vaccine access every year. Funding for immunization accounts for far less than 1% of the total federal budget but is critical funding that helps save millions of lives. This is money well spent, helping to save the lives of millions of people worldwide and creating real economic returns — each dollar spent on childhood immunizations generates $44 in future economic benefits. In 2022, the United States government invested ">$742 million into global vaccine programs. But this was not possible without help from regular Americans — Americans like us. This funding was a direct result of ">over 8,000 congressional engagements made by people just like us. We here in Provo can contribute to this life-saving work. I urge us all to call Representative John R. Curtis’s office and ask him to strengthen and prioritize funding for global vaccine programs through partners such as UNICEF. If this feels daunting or time consuming, text VACCINES to 30644 to learn from Shot@Life, a campaign of the United Nations Foundation, about how you can make a difference. Some of the suggestions, such as signing the Shot@Life petition, which automatically contacts your members of Congress for you, will take less than a minute to complete and directly contribute to this life saving work. As human beings, and especially as Christians, we all have a responsibility to help keep children and families worldwide safe.

Mary Singer

Tolland, Connecticut

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