Facts and Figures
Since the early 1980s, global immunization efforts have resulted
in unprecedented progress in preventing childhood disease
and death. Immunization programs worldwide appear to save
close to 3 million lives annually. They also protect 750,000
children from becoming disabled - some 500,000 from polio.
Immunization efforts for the most part have focused on the
six key vaccine-preventable diseases of childhood (polio,
diphtheria, pertussis, measles, tetanus and tuberculosis).
By 1998, on average, 74 percent (1) of children around the
world had been immunized against these six diseases, compared
with less than 5 percent in 1974. (2) However, few children
in the developing countries have access to vaccines for such
diseases as hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type
b (Hib) and yellow fever.
Death and Disability
Due to Vaccine-Preventable Illness: Despite these successful
efforts to immunize more children, some 3 million children
still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. This
means that every minute, somewhere in the world, there are
approximately 6 children dying of a vaccine preventable disease.
One child is dying every minute from measles alone.
of Immunization: Immunization is the most cost-effective
health measure. It is also an essential component in a nations
efforts to boost economic development and reduce poverty.
Even if the cost of a routine immunization program incorporating
new vaccines were to reach US$2 billion per year to reach
out to all children in low income countries, that would still
represent only about US$0.35 for every person on earth and
less than 0.1% of what the world spends on health.
Poverty: Immunization contributes to alleviating poverty
by enabling more children to stay in school, preparing them
for better jobs. It increases productivity by allowing parents
to work instead of caring for sick children. Immunization
frees up resources that otherwise would have been spent to
treat disease and reduces disabilities leading to decreased
economic productivity. Better adult health directly affects
productivity by increasing work output and reducing absenteeism.(3)
Developed World: There is a great disparity in access
to immunization. A child in the developing world is 10 times
more likely to die of a vaccine-preventable disease than a
child in the industrialized world. At least 25 percent of
children (approx. 30 million infants per year) still do not
have access to basic immunization services, with lowest coverage
in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, up to 70 percent
of children are not fully immunized. In Africa, where public
health needs are greatest, over 40 percent of infants are
not vaccinated against measles, a major childhood killer.
Sufficient funding for immunization and vaccines could result
in dramatic progress in the future. Vaccines currently exist
to protect children from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib),
one of the main causes of meningitis, hepatitis B and yellow
fever, but they are not widely used due to a variety of reasons,
including cost (infrastructure development, education and
training). A vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia should
be available shortly. Vaccine research continues for many
other diseases such as malaria and AIDS. Research and development
could create a range of important new vaccines, including
more effective vaccines for tuberculosis, vaccines that require
a smaller number of shots and vaccines aimed at younger infants
to protect them at a vulnerable age. (4)
1 WHO/V&B;/99.17 WHO Vaccine Preventable
Diseases Monitoring System, 1999 Global Summary
2 WHO World Health Report, 1998: Life
in the 21st century - A vision for all; Executive summary
3 WHO World Health Report, 1999: Making
4 UNICEF: The Progress of
Nations 1998; Health, by Ralph H. Henderson, M.D.
GAVI Secretariat, c/o UNICEF, Palais
des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel: 41 22 909 5019 Fax: 41 22 909 5931 Email: Gavi@unicef.org