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.
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 vaccination coverage rates persist in regions and countries.
For the first time in three decades, we’re witnessing the largest sustained backslide in childhood vaccination rates.
The backslide is being driven by COVID-19 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 pertussis. The most poor and marginalized children – often most in need of vaccines – continue to be the least likely to get them.
We know that vaccination 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 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 immunization. Making sure vaccine doses reach children requires strong primary health care services. UNICEF is investing in community health workers and institutions, as well as improving supply chains, data systems and sustainable financing. That in turn helps to build those health 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 is, 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 primary health care workforce to reach them. We engage with communities to learn their values and needs around quality vaccination services.
UNICEF strengthens immunization services through the coordination of multiple actors and through technical assistance, policy development, guidance and operational support to governments in the following areas:
- Strengthen national and subnational capacities to effectively manage vaccine stocks and cold chain equipment in order to improve effective vaccine management practices and storage capacities. This includes harnessing 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 $100 million worth of cold chain equipment annually, helping to effectively and efficiently deliver vaccines to the communities that need them most.
- Improve distribution and waste management systems for vaccines and PHCprimary healthcare commodities across the supply chain.
- Maintain potency of vaccines and improved access to PHCprimary healthcare services through deploying climate adaptive and sustainable technologies including solarization of health facilities.
- Develop and support innovative approaches and partnerships for last-mile delivery of vaccines and other essential commodities.
- Build capacity of health care workers in immunization supply chain functions and competencies.
- Strengthen national and subnational logistics information systems and capacity to use data for decision making.
As one of the world’s largest buyers of life-saving supplies like vaccines, UNICEF has unique leverage to negotiate the lowest prices. Buying big and being transparent enables us to shape markets, cut costs and increase efficiency – saving more lives.
With UNICEF's market shaping efforts, price of childhood vaccines have stayed relatively stable and some have even decreased over time. The price per dose of combined diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis-hepatitis B - Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine decreased from US$ 3.60 in 2004 to as low as US$ 0.80 in 2023.
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 continuous work in immunization, the world is close to the eradication of polio. Vaccination against measles, rubella and tetanus are also bringing us closer to eliminating these devastating diseases in most geographic areas.
However, with the recent and troubling global backslide vaccination coverage, 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 vaccination 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.
At UNICEF, we utilize a combination of strategies to improve and sustain the demand for vaccines, immunization services and vaccine equity. Our comprehensive approach focuses on social and behaviour change interventions including capacity strengthening of frontline health workers to build trust and confidence in vaccination and Public Health Care services.
We collect social and behavioral data to understand the perspectives, concerns and fears of both care givers and service providers and employ behavioural science-informed approaches to test interventions. Guided by social data, we co-create gender responsive local strategies with communities to promote uptake of vaccines and other health services. We support countries to strengthen online and offline social listening systems to track and identify rumours and misinformation to rapidly debunk myths and potential vaccine hesitancy.
UNICEF engages and mobilizes influencers including faith-based actors, women’s groups, youth groups, public health associations, teachers, private sectors and others, to promote trust and confidence in vaccines and health services using traditional and social media and various community platforms.
UNICEF equips frontline workers with skills and tools in interpersonal communication and community engagement to better engage and communicate with caregivers, contributing to an improved service experience. UNICEF is working to support countries in integration of systems established for COVID-19 vaccine into routine immunization and primary health care.
UNICEF’s immunization economics team works to ensure that vaccines and immunization services are adequately financed by Governments and donors. UNICEF is working towards transparent Government budgets and fully executed budgets. With the support of key partners, UNICEF contributes to the global immunization community through studies, evaluations and direct technical support to immunization programs.
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|