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UNICEF Innovation

Zika Virus (ZIKV) Vaccine

There are currently no vaccines on the market against ZIKV. UNICEF is working together with WHO and PAHO to advance R&D to address gaps in vaccine and diagnostic tools


In July 2016 UNICEF and WHO published a Target Product Profile (TPP) which outlines the desired characteristics and requirements for vaccines against ZIKV.







ZIKV and its suspected link to birth defects was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in February 2016. UNICEF is working with WHO and PAHO to mobilize industry and partners to support the development of a vaccine to protect against ZIKV infection. The geographical distribution of ZIKV has steadily widened since the virus was newly detected in the Western Pacific in 2007. As of December 2016, 75 countries and territories have reported evidence of mosquito-borne ZIKV transmission since 2007 (69 countries with reports from 2015).

ZIKV is transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya. Sexual transmission of ZIKV is also possible. Other modes of transmission such as blood transfusion are being investigated. ZIKV infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects and has been linked to problems in infants, including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. Current research also suggests Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is strongly associated with ZIKV though only a small proportion of people with recent ZIKV infection get GBS. 

The project

There is currently no product which can prevent the spread and/or effects of the ZIKV. Vaccine development is a long, complex process, often lasting 10-15 years and involving a combination of public and private companies and organizations. UNICEF, together with its partners is seeking to expedite this process to get a vaccine that can prevent ZIKV infection to market, as soon as possible.

The ZIKV vaccine project aims to support and accelerate the development and scale up of vaccines to prevent ZIKV infection and/or disease with the ultimate goal of preventing the negative effects of ZIKV on unborn children. The Target Product Profile (TPP) addresses the need for a vaccine suitable in the context of the ongoing epidemic or imminent outbreak, to prevent ZIKV associated diseases in women of childbearing age. The TPP acknowledges that vaccines being developed may also be suitable for routine immunization of the general population during inter-epidemic periods, but it focuses primarily on the characteristics of vaccines for emergency use.

In conjunction with partners, UNICEF is developing demand forecast and specific tender criteria, these projections will be shared at a series of webinars addressed to the vaccine industry. UNICEF is also planning an Advanced Purchase Commitment (APC) model as a pull mechanism to incentivize industry and facilitate the acceleration of availability of candidate vaccines as a response to the emergency.

Related information

Information and updates regarding ZIKV activities in UNICEF

Information on ZIKV from WHO

UNICEF Target Product Profiles webpage



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