Every year, up to three million children’s lives are saved because of vaccines. Diseases such as tetanus and diphtheria, previously major killers of children are on the decline because of increased access to immunization for children all over the globe. During his tenure as UNICEF’s executive director from 1980 to 1995, James Grant spear-headed a global movement to reduce child mortality. His visionary efforts focused on evidence-based, high-impact methods for reducing childhood deaths. They helped catalyze an effort to end childhood deaths championed by governments, in global compacts like the Millennium Development Goals, and through philanthropic efforts like those of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Identified as one of the most effective interventions, immunizations have been the cornerstone of global efforts to reduce child mortality. Through the enterprising work of Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, and other actors working to end vaccine-preventable illnesses, child mortality has declined from 12.7 million deaths per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. While this shows a remarkable decline, the number of childhood deaths is still unacceptably high.
Improved access to immunizations by more children will play a critical role in reducing child mortality rates. From the onset of this millennium, with the Millennium Development Goals ratified and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, launched, the number of children immunized rose consistently until around 2010, when progress seemed to level off. Since then, the number of children reached with a basic package of vaccines has hovered around 80 percent, with stagnant growth. The bulk of the children unreached are largely the poorest and most marginalized and those living in conflict-affected, unstable, or remote areas.
The efforts made to date to roll out immunization services to children around the world are laudable. But, progress doesn’t equal a job completed. We need to push harder and further to reach those children that have been left behind. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that children don’t die from vaccine-preventable diseases.
We recommend the following actions to ensure that all children are reached with immunization services.
For donor governments
- Fulfill your pledges to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Renew, expand, or make a new pledge to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative during the June 2017 replenishment moment.
For high-burden countries
- Fulfill the commitments agreed upon in the Global Vaccines Action Plan, the Addis Declaration on Immunization, and in the Abuja Declaration.
- Expand access to immunization for all children in your country through purchasing adequate immunization supplies and by filling health worker positions, especially those in under-served communities.
For all countries
- Co-sponsor or ratify the resolution proposed on the Global Vaccines Action Plan on the agenda for this year’s World Health Assembly.
- Exercise the power of your voice! Reach out to your member of Congress, your Member of Parliament, or other elected officials, to express your support for immunization programs and global health funding. To learn more about how to do this, please consider connecting with RESULTS.
Through our collective actions, we can ensure that no child dies unnecessarily from vaccine-preventable illnesses.
Take action for 2017 World Immunization Week
Vaccines prevent many childhood diseases and deaths, yet 1 in 7 children don’t have access to basic immunizations. We call on global stakeholders to invest more in research for new vaccines to fight the most common diseases in developing countries. For this year’s World Immunization Week, let’s come together to make #VaccinesWork for everyone. Join us in taking action this week (April 24–30)!