Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research
Immunization Agenda 2030 [IA 2030] Launch
Immunization services begin slow recovery from COVID-19 disruptions, though millions of children remain at risk from deadly diseases – WHO, UNICEF, Gavi
Ambitious new global strategy aims to save over 50 million lives through vaccination
GENEVA/NEW YORK, 26 April 2021 — While immunization services have started to recover from disruptions caused by COVID-19, millions of children remain vulnerable to deadly diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance warned today during World Immunization Week, highlighting the urgent need for a renewed global commitment to improve vaccination access and uptake.
“Vaccines will help us end the COVID-19 pandemic but only if we ensure fair access for all countries, and build strong systems to deliver them,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General. “And if we’re to avoid multiple outbreaks of life-threatening diseases like measles, yellow fever and diphtheria, we must ensure routine vaccination services are protected in every country in the world.”
A WHO survey has found that, despite progress when compared to the situation in 2020, more than one third of respondent countries (37%) still report experiencing disruptions to their routine immunization services.
Mass immunization campaigns are also disrupted. According to new data, 60 of these lifesaving campaigns are currently postponed in 50 countries, putting around 228 million people – mostly children – at risk for diseases such as measles, yellow fever and polio. Over half of the 50 affected countries are in Africa, highlighting protracted inequities in people’s access to critical immunization services.
Campaigns to immunize against measles, which is one of the most contagious diseases and can result in large outbreaks wherever people are unvaccinated, are the most impacted. Measles campaigns account for 23 of the postponed campaigns, affecting an estimated 140 million people. Many have now been delayed for over a year.
“Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight against preventable child illness, with 20 million children already missing out on critical vaccinations,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “The pandemic has made a bad situation worse, causing millions more children to go unimmunized. Now that vaccines are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must sustain this energy to help every child catch up on their measles, polio and other vaccines. We have no time to waste. Lost ground means lost lives.”
As a result of gaps in vaccination coverage, serious measles outbreaks have recently been reported in countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Yemen, while likely to occur elsewhere as growing numbers of children miss out on lifesaving vaccines, the agencies warn. These outbreaks are happening in places already grappling with conflict situations as well as service disruptions due to ongoing response measures to COVID-19.
The supply of vaccines and other equipment is also essential for child vaccinations. Due to disruptions at the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic, UNICEF delivered 2.01 billion vaccine doses in 2020, compared to 2.29 billion in 2019.
“Millions of children across the world are likely to miss out on basic vaccines as the current pandemic threatens to unravel two decades of progress in routine immunization”, said Dr Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “To support the recovery from COVID-19 and to fight future pandemics, we will need to ensure routine immunization is prioritized as we also focus on reaching children who do not receive any routine vaccines, or zero-dose children. To do this, we need to work together – across development agencies, governments and civil society – to ensure that no child is left behind”.
New global immunization strategy aims to save over 50 million lives
To help tackle these challenges and support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO UNICEF, Gavi and other partners today launched the Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030), an ambitious new global strategy to maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines through stronger immunization systems.
The Agenda focuses on vaccination throughout life, from infancy through to adolescence and older age. If fully implemented, it will avert an estimated 50 million deaths, according to WHO – 75% of them in low- and lower-middle income countries.
Targets to be achieved by 2030 include:
:: Achieve 90% coverage for essential vaccines given in childhood and adolescence[i]
:: Halve the number of children completely missing out on vaccines
:: Complete 500 national or subnational introductions of new or under-utilized vaccines – such as those for COVID-19, rotavirus, or human papillomavirus (HPV)
Urgent action needed from all immunization stakeholders
To achieve IA2030’s ambitious goals, WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and partners are calling for bold action:
:: World leaders and the global health and development community should make explicit commitments to IA2030 and invest in stronger immunization systems, with tailored approaches for fragile and conflict-affected countries. Immunization is a vital element of an effective health care system, central to pandemic preparedness and response, and key to preventing the burden of multiple epidemics as societies reopen
:: All countries should develop and implement ambitious national immunization plans that align with the IA2030 framework, and increase investments to make immunization services accessible to all
:: Donors and governments should increase investments in vaccine research and innovation, development, and delivery, focused on the needs of underserved populations
:: The pharmaceutical industry and scientists, working with governments and funders, should continue to accelerate vaccine R&D, ensure a continuous supply of affordable vaccines to meet global needs, and apply lessons from COVID-19 to other diseases
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore’s remarks at the special press briefing with WHO and Gavi on the impact of COVID-19 on immunization
As prepared for delivery
NEW YORK, 26 April 2021 – “This week is World Immunization Week. But effectively, this year has become World Immunization Year.
“Because after a year of lockdowns, empty classrooms, missed vaccinations, virtual birthday parties, and cancelled family dinners, people all over the world are now getting a COVID-19 vaccine or anxiously awaiting the moment when they will.
“Those of us in global development understand how important vaccines are. But this year, every single person on the planet knows it.
“Whether you’ve just had a tearful reunion with loved ones for the first time in over a year. Or you’re anxiously awaiting the moment when your turn will come. This year, more than any other, has reminded us that vaccines bring us together.
“But while COVID-19 vaccines represent our best hope of returning to “normal” lives, we need to remind ourselves that millions of children all over the world have no access to vaccines for any preventable diseases whatsoever. This is not a ‘normal’ to which we should return.
“Even before the pandemic, we were losing ground in the fight against preventable child illness. 20 million children were already missing out on critical vaccinations.
“And now, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still making up lost ground. While there has been progress from the peak of the global lockdowns, routine immunization services remained disrupted in 37 per cent of responding countries in the first quarter of 2021.
“Disruptions as a result of COVID-19 have made this problem worse.
“In 2020, UNICEF, the largest global procurer and supplier of vaccines, delivered 2.01 billion vaccine doses, down from 2.29 billion doses the previous year. Considering the unprecedented global lockdowns and their impact on supply delivery, this was a remarkable achievement.
“UNICEF also managed to deliver 912.7 million syringes for immunization and 10 million safety boxes to 83 countries. And we installed 18,340 cold fridges in health facilities in 25 countries. Another remarkable achievement.
“Over the past few months, we have repeatedly expressed our deep concern about the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. WHO said last week that of the over 890 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that have been administered globally, more than 81 per cent have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries.
“This is not only unfair — it is also unwise, because a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere, especially with the worrying rise in variants.
“But for the people living in the countries where 20 million children are already missing out on life-saving vaccines, it is also unsurprising. Vaccines have always been inequitably distributed.
“Now is the time to change this. We can use this unique moment in time to spur long-term momentum towards finally achieving universal access to routine immunizations and broader primary health care.
“That’s why I am pleased to join my fellow panellists in launching Immunization Agenda 2030 – a comprehensive plan to maximize the impact of vaccination over the next decade.
“IA2030 is an ambitious global strategy to maximize the impact of vaccines. We’re aiming to save an estimated 50 million lives…to halve the number of children receiving zero vaccine doses…and to achieve 90% coverage for key vaccines over the next decade.
“As part of our engagement in IA2030 and World Immunization Week, UNICEF is calling on governments to prioritize strengthening health systems in the poorest countries.
“We need to increase global and domestic investment to continue delivering vaccinations and other critical services for the most vulnerable children, and to guarantee universal, accessible and quality care for the long run.
“We call on governments to protect aid budgets and fulfil existing commitments, which support lifesaving child health services including routine immunization, nutrition and maternal health.
“Donors should also increase investments in vaccine research and innovation, development, and delivery, focusing on the needs of the underserved.
“The pharmaceutical industry and scientists, working with governments and funders, should continue to accelerate vaccine research and development, ensure a continuous supply of affordable vaccines to meet global needs, and apply lessons from COVID-19 to other diseases.
“Finally, we need to take steps to make sure parents and caregivers trust health workers and heed their advice on vaccinating their children against preventable diseases.
“Later this week, UNICEF will be joining the Yale Institute for Global Health and Public Good Projects to announce a new initiative to equip country teams with tools to counter misinformation and mistrust related to all vaccines. We will be sure to make those details available soon.
“The stage is set for 2021 to be a pivotal year for immunization. Through COVAX and other global efforts to make COVID-19 vaccines available for all, we are embarking on an unprecedented global immunization campaign. But this campaign cannot come at the cost of childhood vaccinations. We cannot trade one global health crisis for another.
“In a year when vaccines are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must sustain this energy to accelerate efforts on all three fronts – providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, catching up on missed vaccinations due to pandemic lockdowns, and critically, extending immunization efforts to all children currently missing out on vaccines entirely.
“We have no time to waste. Lost ground means lost lives. Thank you.”