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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 3.5-5 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, vaccination coverage has plateaued in recent years and dropped since 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated disruptions over the past two year have strained health systems, with 25 million children missing out on vaccination in 2021, 6 million more than in 2019 and the highest number since 2009.

    By the end of 2021, nearly all countries had introduced COVID-19 vaccination, and by early 2022 one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been delivered through COVAX.


    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
    • COVID-19
    • diphtheria
    • hepatitis B
    • influenza
    • Japanese encephalitis
    • malaria
    • measles
    • meningitis
    • mumps
    • pertussis
    • pneumonia
    • polio
    • rabies
    • rotavirus
    • rubella
    • tetanus
    • typhoid
    • varicella
    • yellow fever

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

    Not all 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, including through these initiatives adopted by the World Health Assembly in August 2020.

    Immunization Agenda 2030

    IA2030 sets an ambitious, overarching global vision and strategy for vaccines and immunization for the decade 2021–2030. It was co-created with thousands of contributions from countries and organizations around the world. It draws on lessons from the past decade and acknowledges continuing and new challenges posed by infectious diseases (e.g. Ebola, COVID-19).

    The strategy has been designed to respond to the interests of every country and intends to inspire and align the activities of community, national, regional and global stakeholders towards achieving a world where everyone, everywhere fully benefits from vaccines for good health and well-being. IA2030 is operationalized through regional and national strategies and a mechanism to ensure ownership and accountability and a monitoring and evaluation framework to guide country implementation.



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    Latest publications

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    Meeting of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, March 2023: conclusions and recommendations

    The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization held a meeting on 20-22 March 2023. This report summarizes the discussions, conclusions and...

    Field guide for preparedness and response to diphtheria outbreaks in the Western Pacific Region

    Due to high routine vaccination coverage, overall counts of diphtheria case have significantly declined in the Western Pacific Region recently. However,...


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    Country profiles present selected data, statistics and information to provide national health profiles at given points in time.

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