At a glance
- Vaccines are among the most effective and cost-effective health tools, saving between 3.5 million and 5 million lives each year.
- The world has made impressive strides against vaccine-preventable diseases, including eradicating smallpox and dramatically reducing the number of people afflicted by polio, pneumonia, and measles.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to routine immunization programs and basic health services, resulting in significantly lower immunization coverage. In 2021, 25 million children missed one or more of their basic vaccines, and 18 million did not receive a single basic vaccine.
- We support efforts to bring life-saving vaccines to places with some of the highest rates of unimmunized children. These include vaccines against pneumonia, rotavirus, polio, measles, and cholera.
- As part of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, we work with country governments, nongovernmental organizations, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and a wide range of other local, national, and global partners to provide new and underused vaccines to millions of people in lower-income countries.
The Immunization team applies new perspectives to immunization challenges and funds solutions to improve the delivery of high-quality, affordable vaccines for more equitable coverage. We focus on reaching the most vulnerable children as well as adolescents and adults. We partner with countries, multilateral organizations, the private sector, and civil society organizations to support vaccine introductions that help reach national immunization goals. We particularly focus on high-impact efforts, including HPV vaccine introductions and measles campaigns. We believe that robust and resilient immunization programs are the cornerstone of strong primary health care systems. Our work contributes to Immunization Agenda 2030, a vision and commitment by the global community and countries to extend the full benefits of immunization to all by 2030.
Areas of focus
We help make high-quality, affordable vaccines more widely available by ensuring that supply meets demand, procurement is effective and efficient, and supply chains can deliver vaccines when and where they are needed. We focus on using data to support decision-making and accountability and to identify gaps in the partner ecosystem that can be filled through our financial support and expertise.
We work to accelerate the introduction and use of Gavi-supported vaccines to save lives, with particular focus on HPV vaccine introductions and measles campaigns that have potential for large-scale impact.
In collaboration with governments and other local, national, and global immunization partners, we work to strengthen immunization systems and delivery pathways to reach underserved communities, including by addressing health system constraints and barriers to care.
We support Gavi partners at the country, regional, and global levels to increase vaccine access and improve coordination among partners.
We work to improve routine immunization coverage in areas of the world with the lowest vaccine coverage, especially those with the highest polio risk. We focus on rapid learning, impact measurement, and building strong partnerships. The lessons we learn can inform the broader immunization sector’s efforts to improve immunization coverage in conflict zones and other fragile and low-coverage settings.
We work closely with country leaders, civil society organizations, and other partners to ensure that immunization remains a high priority at the national, regional, and global levels. This work includes mobilizing funding for Gavi, supporting advocates and immunization champions, and ensuring sufficient funding and strong policies to support the introduction and scale-up of vaccines.
Why focus on immunization ?
In 1997, after reading a newspaper article about the millions of children who die of preventable diseases in lower-income countries each year, Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates were driven to act and soon laid the groundwork for the foundation’s immunization work.
Vaccines are safe and effective and save millions of lives each year. They are among the best tools the world has to keep children healthy and protect them from deadly and debilitating diseases. Over the past few decades, vaccines have been responsible for the eradication of smallpox and dramatic reductions in the number of people falling ill or dying from diseases such as polio, meningitis, and measles. Over the past two decades, our foundation has helped accelerate the development and introduction of many new vaccines—including those against pneumococcal pneumonia, rotavirus, meningitis A, cholera, and HPV—that have saved and improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people.
Access to vaccines has positive effects not only for children and their families but also entire communities and economies. Vaccines keep children safe from diseases that can keep them out of school and limit their physical and mental development. If we increase vaccine coverage in lower-income countries by 2030, we could prevent 24 million people from falling into poverty due to health expenses.
Our largest immunization grantee is Gavi. From 2000 to 2021, Gavi and its partners immunized nearly 1 billion children, preventing an estimated 15 million deaths. But the COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread disruptions in routine immunization programs and basic health care services around the world, leading to the largest sustained decrease in immunization rates in 30 years. Basic childhood immunization coverage rates have dropped in every region, leaving millions of children unprotected against deadly diseases. In the past 12 months (as of end Feb, 2023), 33 countries have experienced large or disruptive measles outbreaks, all attributed to low vaccination coverage rates.
The combined effects of recent declines in immunization coverage, the slowdown of vaccine introductions, and delayed vaccine campaigns has put decades of progress at risk. Now is the time to prioritize efforts to address the global decline in immunization rates and the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. This is particularly important in lower-income countries that bear the highest burden of vaccine-preventable deaths.