UNICEF works with governments and partners to scale up routine immunization services to make full immunization a part of every child’s life. UNICEF is a co-founder of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a partnership dedicated to strenghtening immunization systems and increasing access to new and under-used vaccines. Working through GAVI, UNICEF and other partners have expanded the access of millions of children in the world’s poorest nations to needed vaccines, including hepatitis B, Hib (which protects against some forms of meningitis and pneumonia) and yellow fever.
Priority is given to nations where routine immunization coverage is lowest and to the districts within those countries where children are least protected.
“The best chance of success comes when you involve people in planning activities. For example, including religious leaders and traditional healers in the early stages can bring very positive results because they are often the first people parents consult if they are concerned about immunization.” — Sylvia Luciani, former UNICEF Senior Advisor, Programme Communications.
UNICEF helps local health managers in these districts to improve planning and supervision of immunization activities and to ensure a regular supply of vaccines. Training for health workers focuses on the safety of injections and maintaining accurate records to keep track of children and women who have missed vaccinations. UNICEF support brings health workers and communities together to cooperate on a range of services for children, including the organization of outreach clinics that are needed to ensure children and women living in the most remote villages are immunized and receive vitamin A supplements.
Persuading parents to bring their children for immunization can prove complicated as often they may be misinformed about the causes of disease and the function of vaccinations. UNICEF works hand-in-hand with political, religious and community leaders and uses a variety of tools to promote immunization: mass media, posters, t-shirts and traditional entertainment such as drama or music, all supported by personal communication.
Making routine immunization work is the only way to guarantee that all children will always be protected from these deadly and debilitating diseases. In countries where routine services are currently unable to reach all children on a regular basis, UNICEF works with governments and non-governmental organizations to conduct National Immunization Days (NIDs). These nation-wide immunization campaigns can reach millions of children over a period of days. Such efforts focus on eradicating polio, eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus, reducing deaths from measles and increasing access to vitamin A supplementation.
The percentage of children receiving three doses of DPT vaccine (that protects against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) in the first year of life is the standard by which routine immunization services are compared and assessed. Currently, only 66 nations have achieved the goal of providing routine immunization to 80 per cent of children in all districts.