Vaccines are the world's safest method to protect children from life-threatening diseases.
Vaccines are among the greatest advances in global health and development. For over two centuries, vaccines have safely reduced the scourge of diseases like polio, measles and smallpox, helping children grow up healthy and happy. They save more than five lives every minute – preventing up to three million deaths a year, even before the arrival of COVID-19.
Thanks to immunization efforts worldwide, children are able to walk, play, dance and learn. Vaccinated children do better at school, with economic benefits that ripple across their communities. Today, vaccines are estimated to be one of the most cost-effective means of advancing global welfare.
Despite these longstanding benefits, low immunization levels persist. Some 20 million children miss out on life-saving vaccines annually. The most poor and marginalized children – often most in need of vaccines – continue to be the least likely to get them. Many live in countries affected by conflict, in remote areas, or where polio remains endemic.
Low immunization rates also compromise progress in areas of maternal and child health and well-being.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared vaccine hesitancy to be one of the top threats to public health. While vaccine hesitancy is as old as vaccination itself, the nature of the challenge continues to shift with the social landscape. Today, vaccine hesitancy and the ‘infodemic’ it fuels are key drivers of under-vaccination across the globe.
UNICEF's immunization programme
With its partners, UNICEF supplies vaccines to reach 45 per cent of the world’s children under five. In over 100 countries, we work with governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and other United Nations (UN) agencies to engage communities, procure and distribute vaccines, keep supplies safe and effective, and help ensure affordable access for even the hardest-to-reach families.
Our focus areas
Many of the world’s unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children live in countries affected by conflict, fragility or where polio remains endemic. UNICEF works with partners to establish, maintain or improve the cold chain for vaccines and other essential medical supplies, and to put health teams torn apart by conflict back in place. No matter how challenging or remote the setting, we find new ways to reach the children, adolescents and mothers most at risk of life-threatening diseases and outbreaks.
Our efforts identify and prioritize marginalized and underserved communities, and strengthen the front-line immunization workforce to reach them. We engage with communities to learn their values and needs around quality vaccination services.
UNICEF and partners harness solar power, mobile technology and telemetrics to ensure vaccines reach all children without losing their effectiveness from exposure to extreme heat or cold weather conditions.
As one of the world’s largest buyers of life-saving supplies like vaccines, UNICEF has unique leverage to negotiate the lowest prices. Buying big and being transparent enables us to shape markets, cut costs and increase efficiency – saving more lives.
With UNICEF's efforts, the price of many essential childhood vaccines has reached an all-time low. This has facilitated the introduction of new vaccines to children living in the poorest countries in a more sustainable way.
Working with private and public partners, UNICEF steers investment towards new vaccines and technologies – including diagnostic and health technologies, solar technology and digital platforms. We strive to scale up the most appropriate tech to expand the reach of immunization programmes.
Thanks to the steady expansion of vaccination coverage, the world has never been in a better position to eradicate polio. Immunization against measles, rubella and tetanus are also bringing us closer to eliminating these devastating diseases.
UNICEF promotes initiatives that optimize waste management and use environmentally friendly products. For example, we support the replacement of absorption fridges with solar technology to strengthen sustainability along the cold chain.
With help from UNICEF and partners:
Vaccination saves 2 to 3 million children each year from deadly diseases.
Some 45% of the world’s children under five are reached with life-saving vaccines.
The number of children paralyzed by polio has fallen by over 99% since 1988.
Measles vaccinations averted over 23 million deaths between 2000 and 2018.
Immunization and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is a grim reminder of the ways in which disease outbreaks can upend lives and livelihoods, with knockdown effects on children's education, mental health, protection and overall well-being. Learn more about global efforts to vaccinate the world against COVID-19.
Immunizing the world against COVID-19 is the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. Through the COVAX Facility, a global collaboration to guarantee fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF and partners are leading these efforts. Together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and CEPI, we are working to ensure that no country or family is left behind as vaccines have become available.
To do so, UNICEF is procuring and supplying COVID-19 vaccines and using our existing infrastructure to help facilitate their logistically demanding delivery. We are also supporting governments through our cold chain expertise, and, just as critically, rolling out a global digital campaign to build public support and raise local awareness about the effectiveness of all vaccines.
More to explore
|UNICEF||UNICEF's Immunization Roadmap|
|UNICEF||Video: UNICEF Immunization Roadmap 2018–2030|
|World Health Organization (WHO) and partners||The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator|
|UNICEF||e-Learning on Immunization|
|UNICEF, First Draft, Yale Institute for Global Health, The Public Good Projects||Vaccine Misinformation Guide|
|UNICEF||Global Annual Results Report 2019: Goal Area 1|
|UNICEF||COVAX Information Centre|
|UNICEF||UNICEF Supply Division: Vaccines|
|UNICEF||COVID-19 Vaccine Market Dashboard|
|Yale Institute for Global Health, The Public Good Projects, UNICEF||Vaccination Demand Observatory|