Skip to main content
Home » Vaccines » The simple solution for saving lives: invest in vaccines
Value of Vaccines 2020

The simple solution for saving lives: invest in vaccines

Image provided by UNICEF // Thomas Nybo

Robin Nandy

UNICEF Chief of Immunization and Representative On The Leadership Team Of The Measles & Rubella Initiative, UNICEF

As we take stock of the year gone by, one word comes up repeatedly: measles.

From early 2019, measles outbreaks, resulting in death and suffering, swept through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Madagascar, the Philippines, Ukraine and Samoa. Measles claimed over 6,000[1] lives in DRC, most of whom were children.

UNICEF, along with partners from the Measles & Rubella Initiative (M&RI) and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, worked with governments to respond to these outbreaks.

The measles vaccine

After massive response efforts, these outbreaks have now slowed down, thanks largely to a safe, effective and inexpensive measles vaccines. 

Across the world, millions of lives have been saved due to this vaccine. Vaccination resulted in an 80% drop in measles deaths worldwide from 2000 to 2017[2]. 

By vaccinating children, we also protect families from catastrophic out-of-pocket treatment costs to treat diseases.

The benefit of vaccines

Vaccines save lives from many other diseases. Today, immunisation against deadly diseases prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths each year, most of them children.[3]

Vaccines also make good economic sense. When illnesses are prevented due to vaccines, we save money related to hospitalisation.

By vaccinating children, we also protect families from catastrophic out-of-pocket treatment costs to treat diseases.

In addition, we can ensure that children are studying at school rather than recovering from illnesses at home. 

People not being vaccinated

Yet despite the power of vaccines, millions of children miss out on them every year. Vaccination coverage has stagnated at 85% globally, resulting in many new outbreaks in 2019, ranging from measles to cholera.[4]

In 2018, an estimated 19 million children missed out on their first dose of the measles vaccine. This is something that the world can ill afford.

Children may miss out on vaccinations due to inadequate basic infrastructure, such as transport and health services or breakdown of primary care services due to conflicts and political upheaval.

Even when medical services are available, insecurity and violence can prevent children from accessing services.  For example, in the DRC, immunisation services have been hampered due to poor infrastructure, conflict and attacks on health centres.

Measles doesn’t discriminate

Measles outbreaks are not limited to low-income countries. Even middle-and high-income countries have been affected.

In these countries, complacency may play a role in children not being vaccinated, while in other countries, parents may be influenced by misinformation and mistrust in the health services. 

To save mothers and their children, the world will need to expand primary health care systems to reach all children in order to achieve the SDG’s by 2030.

Main image

Lucie Kavira holds her infant daughter, Judith, and readies her to receive a number of vaccines at a UNICEF-sponsored immunisation clinic in the village of Kuka on the outskirts of Beni in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of the Congo on 21 October 2019 “It’s important for me to protect my child,” Lucie says. “I don’t want her to get sick.” UNICEF provides the vaccines, cold storage, transport, and logistical and technical support so that health workers can administer the vaccines.

Against the backdrop of an ongoing Ebola outbreak since October 2019, top leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have committed to increasing immunisation efforts and working to eradicate polio in their country. The country has experienced major outbreaks of measles, polio and yellow fever — all vaccine-preventable diseases — in recent years. Within this context, the Government affirmed its commitment to immunisation as a pillar of universal health coverage. As one out of every seven children in the DRC still dies of vaccine-preventable diseases before the age of five, UNICEF, among others, has proposed new and innovative approaches for strengthening immunisation systems at both the national and provincial level.

[1] | [2] | [3] Source: | [4] Source:

Next article