Philippines is top 5 country in the world with zero dose children

Bold actions needed to protect children with routine life-saving vaccines

21 October 2022
A child receives a dose of oral polio vaccine
UNICEF and U.S. CDC/UN0723191/Martin San Diego/Highway Child
On 22 September 2022 in Buadiposo-Buntong, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Philippines, health workers at the Rural Health Unit provide routine childhood vaccinations. Nurse Jasmine Mandong vaccinates 3-month-old Mohammed Zeyad to protect him against polio. He also receives the Pentavalent vaccines.

MANILA, 21 October 2022 – UNICEF Philippines, on the occasion of World Polio Day, revealed that the Philippines has 1 million children who have not received a single dose of childhood vaccine1. In 2021, Philippines was the top 5 contributor to the 18 million zero-dose children globally and the top 7 contributor with the most children unprotected for measles. Routine immunization of children includes vaccines for life-threatening diseases such as polio, measles and tuberculosis.

Past governance challenges, persistent missed opportunities, low demand for services, and disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the number of unimmunized children putting them at risk of severe diseases that can be entirely prevented with safe, effective, and free of cost vaccines.

“Falling child immunization rates and the increasing number of children at risk of measles, polio and other vaccine preventable diseases must be treated as a public health emergency that needs urgent action. Lessons learned from COVID-19 highlight the need to strengthen primary health care through integrated health and nutrition services for a strong and resilient health system in the long term,” said UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov.

Zero dose children are those that have not received any routine vaccine. The Philippines has already been plagued with low coverage on protective vaccines before the COVID-19 pandemic, never having met the ideal target of 95 per cent routine coverage rate for children since the 1990s. Low coverage increases the risk of life-threatening diseases for children. Based on the 2022 WHO Risk Assessment, all regions in the Philippines are at high-risk for a measles outbreak.

In June 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines ended the polio outbreak in the country after vaccinating around 11 million children. However, there were still 1.5 million Filipino children who had not received or completed their polio vaccine. Out of 81 provinces in the Philippines, 67 are at high risk for polio infections. For cities, 71 cities out of 96 are at high risk for polio. Polio is a highly infectious disease that can cause paralysis or death. Complete vaccination for polio according to schedule is the most effective way to protect children from this disease.

UNICEF calls on the government to urgently prioritize investments and bolster human resources to reach zero dose children with clear and timebound strategies and targets. While the supplemental immunization planned for March 2023 can jumpstart vaccination efforts, in the interim, catch-up immunization and strengthening the primary health care delivery platforms need to be fast-tracked. The number of adults and children administered the COVID-19 vaccines have shown that the Philippines can reach significant numbers in a short period of time.

UNICEF welcomes Department of Health’s (DOH) efforts to integrate COVID-19 and routine immunization services so that the same urgency and investment provided by the national and local government for COVID-19 vaccination can be given to routine immunization services for children to reach the 95 per cent target coverage for all routine childhood vaccines.

To address underlying challenges, UNICEF recommends increasing human resources for health in local government units to improve service delivery, supervision, monitoring and evaluation. To catch up with persistent missed opportunities, it recommends improving tracking of defaulters, increasing vaccination visits, establishing sustainable service delivery mechanisms through primary health care platforms, and tackling persistent stockout of vaccines. To improve demand for vaccination services, various methodologies such as community platforms and media including social media should be used to address misconceptions and misinformation on vaccines. Access to services must be improved especially for those in far-flung areas who are discouraged to get their children vaccinated because of transportation and other costs.

UNICEF, with financial support of key partners such as Government of Australia, Asian Development Bank, Gavi, US Government, and the Government of Japan, invested more than USD$ 20 million (approx. 1.1 billion Philippine pesos) since 2021 to support the government’s immunization efforts, providing cold chain equipment, training, technical support for data and information, demand generation supervision and monitoring of the immunization services at the national and sub-national level.

1WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC)

Media contacts

Niko Wieland
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 867 8366
Marge Francia
Advocacy & Communication Specialist
UNICEF Philippines
Tel: +63 917 858 9447


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in the Philippines, visit

Follow UNICEF Philippines on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.