Immunization programme

The right of every woman and every child to immunization is fully realized, with priority given to the most vulnerable. See how UNICEF’s immunization programme helps keep millions of children alive and healthy.

A group of students hold up card to show their vaccine status

The Challenge

Immunizing the children who need it most

Immunization saves 2-3 million lives each year. By protecting children against serious diseases, vaccines play a central role in ending preventable child deaths. UNICEF’s immunization programme also helps identify those children that have been left behind by the health system and can bring other life-saving care to these mothers and children.

Vaccines now protect more children than ever before, but nearly one in five infants misses out on the basic vaccines they need to stay alive and healthy. Low immunization levels among poor and marginalized children compromise gains made in all other areas of maternal and child health.

Over 1.5 million children die annually from diseases that can be prevented by vaccination.

>> Learn more about World Immunization Week 2019

The immunization programme in brief:


UNICEF works with partners in government, NGOs, other UN agencies and the private sector to provide immunization to the children who need it the most.

Vaccinating children in every community: wherever children are not immunized, their lives and their communities are at risk. UNICEF is tailoring new approaches to vaccinate every child in every community – no matter how remote or challenging.

The cold chain: UNICEF and partners are harnessing solar power, mobile technology and telemetrics to make sure that vaccines reach all children without losing their effectiveness from exposure to extreme heat or cold weather conditions.

Vaccine supply: With UNICEF efforts, the price for a number of essential childhood vaccines has reached all-time lows. This has facilitated the introduction of new vaccines to children living in the poorest countries.

Innovation: Working with private and public partners, UNICEF steers investment toward new vaccines, diagnostic and health technologies.  

Disease eradication and elimination programmes: Thanks to steady progress on expanding vaccination, the world has never been in a better position to eradicate polio. Immunization against measles, rubella and tetanus are bringing the world closer to eliminating these devastating diseases.

In Mali, living on a gold mine comes at the expense of healthcare
Infographic: Fast Facts on Immunization

The immunization programme in numbers


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Vaccination saves 2-3 million children each year from deadly childhood diseases like measles, diarrhea and pneumonia.

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Measles vaccinations averted an estimated 21.1 million deaths between 2000 and 2017. 

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In 2018, UNICEF reached almost half of the world’s children with life-saving vaccines.

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Since 2000, 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated and the number of polio cases has fallen by more than 99 percent, dropping to just 22 cases in 2017.

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Thanks to global immunization efforts, maternal and neo-natal tetanus is endemic only in 13 countries.

The Solution

UNICEF and partners support immunization programmes in over 100 countries to help realize children’s right to survival and good health. Activities include engaging communities to create vaccine demand, procuring and distributing vaccines and keeping vaccines safe through cold chain logistics. UNICEF also works with partners to strengthen immunization programmes to identify and prioritize children who have missed on their vaccination.


Why are these efforts needed?

  • Immunization saves children’s lives, but nearly 20 million children don’t receive even the most basic vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to dangerous diseases.
  • Immunization is the most cost-effective child health intervention. Every dollar spent on childhood immunizations yields US$44 in economic benefits. These include savings on medical costs and productivity loss.
  • Today, 1.5 million children die each year because they weren’t vaccinated.
  • 30 per cent of deaths among children under five are from vaccine-preventable causes.

Increased investments on immunization in low- and middle-income countries could avert up to 36-million deaths and 24-million cases of impoverishment due to medical costs.

Take action

Every child has the right to a fair chance in life. Your donations can help UNICEF and our partners make a difference in the lives of children around the world.