The COVID-19 vaccine success stories
Discover some of the countries that have seen rapid rises in their vaccination rates.
When UNICEF helped launch the largest vaccine operation effort in history, the focus was to make sure that every community was protected from COVID-19. And since the COVAX initiative began in February 2021, more than 1.4 billion doses have reached more than 140 countries.
In some cases, a vaccine represents an opportunity to see and hug a grandchild again, after such a long time apart. In other instances, a dose offers the chance for someone to return to work once again and earn a living for their family.
A number of countries have recently seen dramatic rises in their vaccination rate, over the course of just a few months. Here are some of those success stories.
Thanks to more vaccines and the efforts of volunteers, Bangladesh's vaccination rate has risen sharply
When the first COVID-19 vaccines supplied by COVAX touched down in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, in June 2021, less than four per cent of all adults were fully vaccinated. Fast forward less than a year and that number has risen dramatically. By the beginning of April, 67 per cent of the population had received two doses.
COVAX has played a crucial role in that achievement. More than half of all the COVID-19 vaccines delivered to Bangladesh last year were through the programme.
Young volunteers in Bangladesh have played an important role in making sure those shots get to people’s arms. They’ve been reaching out to communities to amplify the message that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and available.
Mukta is one of those volunteers. She’s 24, lived her whole life in Dhaka, and she’s a student, studying nutrition. She has been driven by a desire to help other people during the pandemic and so she joined UNICEF as a volunteer.
Mukta has been going door to door, often talking to elderly people, families living in slums, and those who don’t have access to a mobile phone or the internet.
“I’ve seen so many vulnerable people,” says Mukta. “I enjoy going to people’s homes and raising awareness about vaccination. I love helping them.”
Nazma, who is 50, was one of the people Mukta helped to register online to get the COVID-19 vaccine. For Nazma, it came as a massive relief.
“I didn’t have access to a smartphone. I didn’t know how to register for vaccination. I didn’t even know where to get help,” Nazma says. “I was afraid I might not get vaccinated.”
She’s now vaccinated.
Grandparents in Peru are able to see and hug their grandchildren thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines
Artemio Baldoceda is a grandfather and he speaks for so many when he describes what it means to him to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Joy in my heart because I’m getting a little more life to have my family, and for my family to have me. You miss the grandchildren, especially. One waits for that moment to come when you can bear hug them.”
Peru’s COVID-19 vaccination drive has meant that older, more vulnerable adults like Artemio have been able to see and hug their families again.
And for Carmen Castañeda, who is a nurse at the Los Libertadores Health Centre in Lima and has been helping to give out COVID-19 vaccines, that has a lot of personal meaning.
“I feel as if every person I vaccinate could be my mum or dad,” Castañeda reflects. “The elderly people feel very happy, delighted.”
COVAX played a significant role at the beginning of the vaccine drive in Peru in 2021, and has since supplied more than 8.2 million COVID-19 vaccines to the country. Over the past seven months, the rate of adults that have received two doses in Peru has risen from 25 per cent to almost 80 per cent.
Viet Nam’s vaccination rate has soared in just half a year, meaning that almost every adult is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19
There’s been a rapid rise in the COVID-19 vaccination rate in Viet Nam over the past few months. In September 2021, less than 10 per cent of all adults in the country had received both doses. But by April 2022, more than 78 per cent of those aged over 12-years had been given two shots.
UNICEF has been working with Viet Nam’s government to provide COVID-19 vaccines for about 35 per cent of the country’s population through COVAX.
Those doses have been crucial for not only protecting people’s health, but also protecting their livelihoods.
Take, for example, Lo Thi Son. She lives in a remote mountainous village in northwest Viet Nam and has two young daughters to support. During the pandemic, both her husband and her father-in-law lost their jobs. To earn extra income for her family, Son hoped to sell vegetables at a local market, but the health risks made that hard.
“I felt sad because I did not have enough money to buy diapers and milk for my children,” she remembers. “I was also scared of going to crowded places as a young mother with little children.”
The opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccine was a massive economic lifeline for her. “[The] COVID-19 vaccine makes me feel more confident and assured,” she reflected ahead of getting her second dose in November, 2021. “I will be able to go to the market and safely sell vegetables to earn more income for my family.”
Making sure that remote and disaster-prone communities in the Philippines have access to COVID-19 vaccines
In the Philippines, the COVID-19 vaccination rate has risen significantly recently. Back in September 2021, less than 18 per cent of the population had been fully vaccinated. Half a year later, by April 2022, that vaccination rate now stands at more than 59 per cent.
About one in three of all the COVID-19 vaccines that have been given to people in the Philippines have come from the COVAX initiative.
Making sure communities have access to the doses in the country presents specific challenges. It requires reaching hundreds of hard-to-reach islands and often disaster-prone regions.
Take, for example, the municipality of Kabugao, nestled in the mountains, 500 kilometres north of the capital, Manila. Extreme flooding and landslides are common, and the power sometimes goes out. That creates a major challenge, as the COVID-19 vaccines need to be stored at low temperatures in refrigerators and freezers.
So, with the support of the Japanese government, UNICEF has supplied dozens of solar powered refrigerators to communities like Kabugao, to make sure the doses can last even when electricity is lost.
UNICEF has also been working to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the indigenous Aeta community. You can watch and find out more about those efforts below.
COVAX moving forward
As the number of COVID-19 vaccines on the market has increased, there are today enough doses to meet the needs of low- and middle-income countries. So, the focus now is less about resolving supply constraints. Instead, the priority moving forward is to make sure that vaccines are turned into vaccinations. That means supporting countries with weaker health systems to ensure they have enough trained health care workers, the necessary logistics in place and access to equipment like syringes and cold storage freezers.
You can read more about what a strong health system looks like and why they’re vital in the fight against COVID-19.