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UNICEF's immunization program
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Update

Global cases of measles are surging to alarmingly high levels, led by ten countries accounting for more than 74 per cent of the total increase. Several others had previously been declared measles free.

Vaccines are one of the simplest, cost-effective and most successful ways to save children’s lives. As the largest global purchaser of vaccines, UNICEF reaches 45 per cent of the world’s children with life-saving vaccinations.

But it’s not just about working to vaccinate every child. We’re also working to completely rid the world of diseases like polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus. 

Thanks to our donors, UNICEF is able to reach and immunize children worldwide. Give the gift of health with UNICEF Canada’s Survival Gifts »

Immunization statistics

Thanks to vaccination efforts, an estimated 2-3 million lives are saved every year. One third of deaths of children under five are preventable by vaccine. Yet an estimated one in five of the world’s children still don’t have access to life-saving immunizations.

Did you know?

Together with partners, UNICEF was able to help reduce the price of the pentavalent vaccine by half in 2016 to 84 cents US per dose, on average. The pentavalent vaccine protects children against five deadly diseases – hepatitis B, pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Because of the reduction in price, UNICEF will be able to provide life-saving vaccines to an estimated 5.7 million children by 2020.

Vaccines work – here are the facts:

  • Vaccines are safe and effective, and prevent deadly illnesses such as diphtheria, measles, mumps and pertussis (whooping cough). Any licensed vaccine is rigorously tested before it is approved for use.
  • Vaccines provide better immunity than natural infections because they have proven to be less risky and less likely to result in cognitive impairments. If we stop vaccinating children, diseases will return. If the number of children that are unvaccinated increases, the more likely it is for diseases to make a comeback. 
  • Combined vaccines are safe, beneficial and save time, money and discomfort to children. The common cold actually has more antigens than vaccines.

3 Deadly diseases that are preventable with vaccines

girl receiving polio vaccine

1. Measles 

Measles is a leading cause of death among children, even though a safe and inexpensive vaccine exists. Measles infects 7 million people and kills almost 90,000 people – which includes 246 children per day –each year, with 90% of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus becoming infected. Since 2000, an estimated 20.3 million child deaths were prevented through measles immunization.   

Prevent children from catching this highly contagious disease with a Measles Vaccine Pack >>  

2. Polio

Polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere. UNICEF is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which aims to eradicate the crippling disease by 2019 – we’re 99% of the way there. Recent vaccination campaigns in the final three outstanding countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan – reinforce that we’re on the brink of a global change. Donate polio vaccines today »

3. Maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT)

Maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) is a painful, paralyzing and fatal disease for women and their newborn babies. Infants are especially at risk. It’s contracted when an unsterile blade is used to cut the umbilical cord, infecting vulnerable babies during their first moments of life. Fortunately, MNT is completely preventable. When a woman of childbearing age is vaccinated against tetanus, she passes on her immunity to her unborn children. As of March 2019, UNICEF and partners have eliminated MNT in 45 countries – with Kenya having successfully eliminated MNT in early 2019 – and we continue to tackle it in the 14 countries where it remains a public health concern. Protect families with a Mother and Baby Tetanus Pack »

Transporting vaccines to children in conflict zones and hard-to-reach areas

vaccines being transported on a donkey to hard-to-reach areas

I chose this work to serve my village and community. Obstacles do not matter,

says Ahmed, a UNICEF vaccinator who often works nights and transports vaccines for children up the rocky mountainside with his donkey.

Almost two-thirds of children who have not been immunized against deadly or debilitating diseases live in countries affected by conflict. The breakdown of vital health services, the killing of health workers and the destruction of medical facilities, supplies and equipment can all have disastrous effects on children’s health. To protect children caught in conflict, UNICEF vaccinators reach those in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. 

Did you know?

UNICEF was also the first to introduce “days of tranquility” and “zones of peace” to the world: temporary ceasefires to provide life-saving care. The first days of tranquility occurred in El Salvador in 1985, when fighting stopped for three days to allow 250,000 children to be vaccinated. UNICEF will always work to ensure that children caught in crisis are not forgotten.