Working Together to Protect All with Vaccines

In the United States, global immunization programs have enjoyed consistent bipartisan support over the past two decades. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide financial and technical support for bilateral programs to strengthen countries’ immunization campaigns, including supply chain management and data analysis. The USAID Maternal and Child Health account also supports Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership financing vaccine programs in eligible lower and lower-middle income countries. The United States was one of the original six donors to Gavi and has consistently supported the alliance, which reports that it has immunized 640 million children and saved 9 million lives since its founding in 2000. Indeed, the 2018 omnibus budget passed by Congress in March provides $290 million for the vaccine partnership. That amount is $15 million above the FY2017 enacted level, a clear testament to political support for global immunization programs in a budget cycle when almost all other global health programs held steady at FY2017 levels in the face of an administration request 34 percent below the previous year.

Recent research suggests that in addition to preventing disease and protecting health, immunizations also contribute to poverty alleviation, supporting broader global economic development goals. In February, Health Affairs published a study arguing that, between 2016 and 2030, vaccines administered through public programs will prevent 36 million deaths and prevent 24 million people worldwide from becoming impoverished as a result of dealing with the catastrophic health costs associated with illness and death. This research builds on earlier data from 2016 showing that every $1 invested in vaccines saves $16 in health care costs associated with illness.

World Immunization Week, which in 2018 runs from April 24 to 30 and highlights the theme, “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork,” offers a moment to reflect on the positive support global immunization programs enjoy within an otherwise fractious political environment and the global successes to which U.S.-supported programs have contributed.
Katherine E. Bliss
Senior Fellow and Director, Immunizations and Health Systems Resilience, Global Health Policy Center