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.
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. They act as a protective shield, keeping families and communities safe. Despite these longstanding benefits, low immunization levels persist.
For the first time in three decades, we’re witnessing the largest sustained backslide in childhood vaccinations.
The backslide is being driven by pandemic disruptions, conflict, displacement and increasing vaccine misinformation. As a result, some 25 million children are now missing out on life-saving vaccines every year, placing them at risk from devastating and entirely preventable diseases like measles and polio. The most poor and marginalized children – often most in need of vaccines – continue to be the least likely to get them.
We know that immunization is one of the most effective public health interventions, giving every child the opportunity to grow up healthy and reach their full potential. UNICEF is working tirelessly to make sure that every child, regardless of where they are, has access to the vaccines they need to not only survive, but thrive.
UNICEF's immunization programme
With its partners, UNICEF reaches almost half of the world’s children every year with lifesaving vaccines. 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.
Procuring and distributing vaccines is just one aspect of our work in this field. Making sure doses reach children, so they’re protected from preventable diseases requires strong health systems. UNICEF is investing in community health workers and institutions, as well as improving supply chains, data systems and disease surveillance. That in turn helps to build those stronger systems.
Our focus areas
Many of the world’s unvaccinated and under-vaccinated children live in countries affected by conflict and instability. 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. UNICEF procures more than $100 million worth of cold chain equipment annually, helping to effectively and efficiently deliver vaccines to the communities that need them most.
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. The cost of fully immunizing children in low-income countries is now as low as $18 (USD) per child. That’s down from almost $25 a decade ago. 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.
However, with the recent and troubling global backslide in routine immunizations, a growing cohort of children are now, again, at greater risk of life threatening but preventable diseases. Consequently, UNICEF is intensifying efforts to reach missed children in often underserved communities through crucial vaccine catch-up campaigns.
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.
In recent years, the World Health Organization 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 misinformation it fuels is a key driver of under-vaccination across the globe.
Disseminating accurate information and allaying the spread of misinformation is essential to ensuring every child is protected with life-saving vaccines. UNICEF is committed to providing caregivers and communities with fact-based information on vaccines. Through community-level engagement and building partnerships, we work to build trust. That involves developing alliances with civil-society organizations, as well as faith-based organizations, to increase awareness in underserved and underreached communities.
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.
More to explore
|UNICEF||UNICEF's Immunization Roadmap|
|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|
|UNICEF||Global Annual Results Report 2021: Goal Area 1|
|Yale Institute for Global Health, The Public Good Projects, UNICEF||Vaccination Demand Observatory|
|UNICEF||UNICEF Supply Division: Vaccines|
|UNICEF||COVID-19 Vaccine Market Dashboard|