UNICEF devotes considerable priority and resources to immunization because it is among the most cost-effective public health interventions.
Today's technology allows us to develop and use more and better vaccines to prevent most child illness and death due to vaccine-preventable diseases. Infectious diseases that were once under control can re-emerge and diseases can spread to countries and continents where they had once been eliminated.
The regional average for measles immunization coverage in children under one year of age as an indicator of Millennium Development Goal 4 of lowering child mortality has been consistently high in the past several years. It has surpassed the regional target of 95 per cent. However, there are discrepancies between countries and within populations. The cost of failing to vaccinate can be devastating, leading to high disease burden and grave social and economic consequences.
Accumulation of susceptible populations in time leads to the occurrence of outbreaks such as measles and polio, revealing weaknesses in routine immunization and having a considerable impact on the health and long term wellbeing of children, who were those that were mostly affected.
In our efforts to improve immunization services and access, UNICEF is working with national governments, the WHO, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), other international agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the vaccine manufacturers in order to provide quality-assured vaccine supply, funding and technical assistance to strengthen national capacities on programme management, reaching the unimmunized, introducing new vaccines, cold chain and communications.
UNICEF advocates for the maintenance of immunization as a public health intervention available to all, particularly for the vulnerable and marginalized populations, during the reform of cash-strapped health systems. We help governments to develop and implement national immunization plans. In addition, we encourage and support governments in their efforts to assume responsibility for the sustainable financing of these services.
Finally, in an effort to build and maintain public trust, we work to generate well-informed media coverage, assist countries in strengthening their health promotion capacities, developing national communication strategies, training front-line health workers on communication skills, as well as assisting risk and crisis communication in times of adverse events and disease outbreaks.
A campaign was launched in 2010 after Tajikistan witnessed its first reappearance of polio cases since the country was declared polio-free in 2002. The campaign is coordinated by Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF, WHO and other international partners to protect Tajikistan’s children from the deadly disease and make the country polio-free once more. With the support of partners from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), UNICEF procured and delivered over 17 million doses of oral polio vaccine. UNICEF also led a national communications effort to inform the general public about polio immunization.
Last updated November 2013