Sometimes, all you need is love. But while science has confirmed that a bit of romance can strengthen your immune system, reduce anxiety, and lower your blood pressure — love has, sadly, not yet evolved to the point where it can proactively identify and combat pathogens.
But hey, that’s why we have vaccines — and this Valentine’s Day, we wanted to bring them together.
Alongside our partners at the ONE Campaign, Save the Children, UNICEF, and Results UK, we asked loads of young people to write love letters to vaccines. This super squad of charities then invited 100 of the most impassioned health romantics to a day of action in Westminster on Wednesday to deliver these letters to MPs directly.
The activists were there to urge politicians to advocate for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — an organisation that has already immunised more than 760 million children, preventing an estimated 13 million deaths.
Gavi will ask political leaders, charities, public and private donors, vaccine manufacturers, and governments for funding to continue its incredible work at a replenishment conference happening in London this June. The plan is to have immunised 1.1 billion people by 2025, saving over 22 million future lives.
Global Citizens Shantel and Srideep are ready for a big afternoon meeting MPs! ✊— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) February 12, 2020
“Vaccines save so many lives,” Shantel tells us. “What I like about what we’ve been talking about today is that it feels like a collaborative effort between young people and politicians.” @Gavipic.twitter.com/0Fwr8ISphf
One Global Citizen who joined us at Portcullis House on Wednesday was Nomhe Shantel Shenxane. The 22-year-old University of Westminster student from South Africa has been taking action and volunteering with us for about a year, and hopes one day to start her own mental health charity.
“I’m interested in social entrepreneurship and am keen to look at lots of different causes: climate change, poverty, well-being, global health,” Shenxane told Global Citizen. “I’ve gained so much knowledge today about vaccines and the impact Gavi is having all over the world. It’s really important. It’s changed my perspective in terms of seeing how much difference it makes.”
Shenxane was given advocacy training and armed with information sheets full of facts and stats before she joined other volunteers to talk to MPs from the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties.
And here’s our future PM - Shantel again! - advocating for @Gavi with Sheffield Central’s @PaulBlomfieldMP 💪— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) February 12, 2020
“He seemed really switched on,” Shantel says. “He is committed to the cause to continue funding.” pic.twitter.com/tHR9fiZqSi
It was a match made in heaven: the volunteers reported really positive feedback, while Bim Afolami MP urged them to keep fighting for what they believed in.
“Keep going,” he said. ”Nothing you do is too small.”
For all of the volunteers who couldn’t make it, we made sure your love letters were delivered on time for Valentine’s Day.
Here are some excerpts from a few of our favourites, which serve as a reminder that vaccines are an essential part of protecting children from diseases we already know how to prevent — and ensure good global health for everyone.
1. "On Valentine's Day, here's hoping you'll help children survive long enough to fall in love."
— Deborah C.
2. "We want every child in this world to have a chance in life — to grow, to prosper, to laugh, to cry, to live."
— Paul C.
3. "Vaccines = Love."
— Agatka G.
4. "Simply put, if we can help someone live, we should."
— Liam S.
5. "By giving children access to vaccines, we are providing them with brighter futures and allowing all countries and people to flourish."
— Anna K.