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Vaccines and immunization



    Immunization is a global health and development success story, saving millions of lives every year. Vaccines reduce risks of getting a disease by working with your body’s natural defences to build protection. When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds.

    We now have vaccines to prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases, helping people of all ages live longer, healthier lives. Immunization currently prevents 2-3 million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.

    Immunization is a key component of primary health care and an indisputable human right. It’s also one of the best health investments money can buy. Vaccines are also critical to the prevention and control of infectious-disease outbreaks. They underpin global health security and will be a vital tool in the battle against antimicrobial resistance.

    Yet despite tremendous progress, far too many people around the world – including nearly 20 million infants each year – have insufficient access to vaccines. In some countries, progress has stalled or even reversed, and there is a real risk that complacency will undermine past achievements.

    Global vaccination coverage – the proportion of the world’s children who receive recommended vaccines – has remained the same over the past few years.




    Vaccines train your immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it’s exposed to a disease. However, because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications.

    Vaccines protect against many different diseases, including:


    • Cervical cancer
    • Cholera
    • Diphtheria
    • Hepatitis B
    • Influenza
    • Japanese encephalitis
    • Measles
    • Meningitis
    • Mumps
    • Pertussis
    • Pneumonia
    • Polio
    • Rabies
    • Rotavirus
    • Rubella
    • Tetanus
    • Typhoid
    • Varicella
    • Yellow fever


    Some other vaccines are currently under development or being piloted, including those that protect against Ebola or malaria, but are not yet widely available globally.

    Not all of these vaccinations may be needed in your country. Some may only be given prior to travel, in areas of risk, or to people in high-risk occupations. Talk to your healthcare worker to find out what vaccinations are needed for you and your family.


    WHO response


    WHO is working with countries and partners to improve global vaccination coverage, through the “Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020”. Through the plan, WHO:

    1. Helps all countries to commit to immunization as a priority, which means WHO works with them to set national targets and plans, as well as allocate adequate financial and human resources.
    2. Supports individuals and communities to understand the value of vaccines and  demand immunization as both their right and responsibility.
    3. Develops plans and materials to ensure every person is reached with vaccines.
    4. Strengthens immunization systems so they can serve as platform for delivering other health interventions.
    5. Works to increase funding for immunization and ensure safe and reliable vaccine supply systems.
    6. Develops targeted research and development innovations for new and improved vaccines.

    Every year, WHO also works with UNICEF to produce national immunization coverage estimates for Member States. In 2020, WHO will work with Member States to develop the “Immunization Agenda 2030”.



    infants worldwide

    Received 3 doses of DTP3 vaccine, during 2019.

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    20 million


    In 2019, 20 million children missed out on lifesaving measles, diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.

    Fact sheet

    2-3 million

    deaths prevented

    Immunization currently prevents 2-3 million deaths every year.

    Read more


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