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UNICEF Innovation

Zika Virus (ZIKV) Vaccine

Working with WHO and PAHO, to mobilise industry and partners, to support the development of a vaccine to protect against ZIKV infection.


ZIKV and its suspected link to birth defects was declared by World Health Organization (WHO) as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) on the 1st of February 2016.

UNICEF Supply Division is working together with WHO and PAHO to advance R&D and the commercial environment, to address gaps in vaccine and diagnostic tools urgently required to fight ZIKV. There are currently no vaccines on the market against ZIKV.

The rapid development of a safe and effective vaccine to prevent ZIKV is a global priority as infection in pregnant women has been shown to lead to foetal microcephaly and other severe foetal brain defects and has been linked to problems in infants, including eye defects, hearing loss, and impaired growth. ZIKV is also strongly associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

In July 2016 UNICEF and WHO published a Target Product Profile (TPP) for the future ZIKV vaccine. The TPP outlines the desired characteristics and minimum and preferred requirements for vaccines against ZIKV. The TPP aims to inform vaccine developers, regulatory authorities and procurement agencies, in facilitating the accelerated development of vaccine candidates that address the urgent public health need.


The 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 geographical distribution of ZIKV has steadily widened since the virus was newly detected in the Western Pacific in 2007 and July 21, 2016, 50 countries and territories reported active ZIKV transmission (locations with mosquitoes transmitting ZIKV to persons in the area).

Current solutions

This is real-time innovation as 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.

Purpose of the project

The goal of the ZIKV vaccine project is to support and accelerate the development and scale up of vaccines to prevent ZIKV infection and/or disease and ultimately the prevention of the negative effects of ZIKV on unborn children. The TPP addresses the need for a vaccine suitable for vaccination 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.

Project updates

In conjunction with partners, UNICEF SD is developing demand forecast and specific tender criteria. UNICEF together with its partners will share these projections at a series of webinars addressed to 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 response to the emergency.

More information and updates regarding ZIKV activities in UNICEF here

The latest information on ZIKV is available from WHO



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