Immunization: a global success story
Immunization — a pillar of UNICEF's global mission for children — is considered one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions in human history.
As the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, UNICEF has helped reach more than 760 million children with lifesaving vaccines since 2000, preventing more than 13 million deaths.
Thanks to vaccination campaigns and related programs spearheaded by UNICEF and partners, polio is on the verge of being eradicated. All but 12 countries have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus. And vaccination remains the world's best chance of defeating COVID-19.
In 2020, UNICEF was tapped by COVAX to lead equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. By the end of 2022, 1.89 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been shipped through COVAX to 146 primarily low- and middle-income countries.
Getting children vaccinated takes teamwork
The success of UNICEF's global immunization efforts would not be possible without teamwork: without doctors, nurses, scientists, parents, educators, governments, civil society groups and other partners coming together to get shots into the smallest arms.
There are still gaps to fill. Not every child gets fully vaccinated on schedule and as recommended by the World Health Organization. Conflict, displacement and poverty can impede access, leaving tens of millions of children around the world unprotected against preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough and pneumonia.
Vaccine hesitancy — fueled by vaccine myths and misinformation — is another barrier that UNICEF and partners counter through public education campaigns and with help from community mobilizers.
When vaccination rates drop, the risks of deadly disease outbreaks go up
The COVID-19 pandemic widely disrupted vaccination efforts — among other critical services for children — sharply increasing the number of children who missed out. When immunization coverage drops, diseases that were previously under control can come back.
Immunization provides a foundation for good health at the start of life and puts children on a path toward a healthier, more productive future.