From Arrival to Survival

No child should die from a preventable cause.

One of the greatest advances in global health and development, vaccines have been used for over two centuries to drastically reduce the impact and damage done by diseases like polio, measles, and smallpox.

Vaccines offer invaluable life-saving protection to children and babies by sparking their immune response to fight off specific deadly diseases.

These childhood vaccines save more than five lives every minute, preventing up to three million deaths per year, allowing the world’s children to grow up happy and healthy.

Help Vaccinate a Child in Need

Childhood Vaccinations

UNICEF is proud to be the largest distributor of vaccines world-wide. In the last 20 years, UNICEF and our vaccine distribution efforts have reached more than 760 million children with life-saving vaccines, an effort which has prevented more than 13 million deaths.

Through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, in which UNICEF has partnered with WHO, Rotary International, CDC, Gavi, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world has seen the number of children affected by polio reduced by 99 percent – cutting the number of polio-endemic countries from 125 to just 2.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Coronavirus vaccine rollout, routine vaccination programs have experienced widespread disruption to their distribution efforts. Millions of children are now at risk of serious illness and death from easily prevented diseases such as Polio and Measles.

baby being vaccinated
A baby is being vaccinated in the Obassin region of Burkina Faso. © UNICEF/UN0569315/Dejongh

Working to End Polio

What is Polio? Polio is a highly infection viral disease that was once the leading cause of paralysis among children worldwide. Polio is spread when people come into contact with droplets launched into the air when infected people sneeze or cough. It can also spread via contact with the feces of infected individuals.

In most people, polio presents no symptoms after infection. For some, polio symptoms present as a flu-like illness lasting roughly one week. In a small number of cases, the polio virus attacks the nerves in the spine and the base of the brain, potentially causing paralysis that develops over hours or days.

This paralysis is not often permanent, but it can create persistent problems with breathing muscles which can be life threatening. There is no cure for polio, so without routine vaccination programs, children and infants around the globe are left vulnerable due to this entirely preventable illness.

baby vaccinated against polio
Four-month-old Fayra receives a dose of the polio vaccine during an immunization session in Kupang, Indonesia. © UNICEF/UN0567669/Ijazah

COVID-19 Disrupts Routine Immunisation 


Million Children Have Missed Their First Measles Vaccine

Preventing the Spread of Measles

UNICEF is a leading partner in The Measles & Rubella Initiative, which aims to achieve and maintain a world without measles, rubella, and congenital rubella syndrome. This partnership has helped deliver life-saving vaccines globally and saved over 31.7 million lives by increasing vaccination coverage.

Measles is another highly contagious disease, which is spread via direct contact and through the air. While the number of measles cases around the world have fallen in recent years, progress toward elimination of the disease continues to decline. During 2020 more than 22 million infants missed their first dose of the measles vaccine – 3 million more than in 2019. This is the largest increase in two decades, creating ideal conditions for dangerous outbreaks to occur.

Before the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, our world saw an estimated 2.6 million deaths due to measles outbreaks each year. In 2018, there were more than 140,000 measles deaths globally – mostly among children under the age of five.

The MMR vaccine is 97% effective at preventing measles while also protecting against mumps and rubella. Reaching all children and infants with two doses of the measles vaccine or combination vaccines such as the MMR vaccine should be the standard for national immunization programs around the globe.

Pandemic Disrupts Routine Vaccinations

The disruption of global immunization efforts due to COVID-19 has created the ideal environment for diseases such as polio and measles to thrive. With routine immunization services substantially hindered in at least 68 countries, millions of children around the globe are now at risk of diseases like measles and polio.

Childhood vaccines and infant vaccinations are important safeguards against a resurgence of polio and the continued outbreaks of diseases such as measles. Millions children cannot and should not die from a preventable cause.

When you donate to UNICEF, you are helping to deliver life-saving vaccines to children, their caretakers and front-line healthcare workers around the world. As the world’s largest distributor and purchaser of vaccines, we are working to eliminate deadly diseases.

Donate now and help save millions of children from illness, paralysis and death.

Help Vaccinate a Child in Need

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