Mission Unstoppable: UNICEF on Why We Need Equitable Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Now

Stopping the spread of the coronavirus means making sure that people everywhere are protected. That’s the governing principle behind the COVAX Facility, a groundbreaking multilateral initiative to distribute Covid-19 vaccines equitably worldwide.

On Sept. 16, 2021, 124,500 AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by Norway via the COVAX Facility arrive at the airport in Lusaka, Zambia. © UNICEF/UNO522493/James

As a key partner in COVAX, UNICEF is leveraging 75 years of expertise building a global health network for children to coordinate delivery of Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 180 countries, including humanitarian settings and war zones.

To date, COVAX has shipped more than 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries around the world. Yet vaccine hoarding and manufacturing delays have kept the access gap between rich and poor nations vast. Nowhere is that inequity more acute than in Africa, where less than 5 percent of the continent’s population has been fully vaccinated.

“As we celebrate our milestone 75th anniversary, we are at our most pivotal moment in history — to deliver Covid-19 vaccines where they are needed most,” said Elizabeth McCostlin, Managing Director, Midwest Region at UNICEF USA. “UNICEF is the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunizations and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries — we were built for this moment.”

In Nepal’s far western Doti district, UNICEF-supported health worker Ravi Chhayajyoti walks to a remote vaccination center carrying Covid-19 vaccines donated to Nepal by the U.S. government through the COVAX Facility. © UNICEF/UN0501467/Prasad Ngakhusi

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 4.9 million people since it began its sweep around the globe in 2020. The greater the number of people who are fully vaccinated, the slower the rate of transmission is likely to be. A robust vaccination rate also protects against the rise of highly contagious variants. COVAX’s mission to vaccinate the world is more essential — and more urgent — than ever.

UNICEF is a key part of that mission. It’s the only organization in the world with the infrastructure, experience and expertise already in place to make it happen. As the world’s largest vaccine purchaser, UNICEF currently immunizes 45 percent of the world’s children every year.

From updating cold chain storage facilities, installing solar-powered refrigerators and providing training on the safe transportation of vaccines to coordinating community outreach programs and fighting misinformation, UNICEF is working on all fronts to help end the pandemic.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that the virus knows no boundaries or borders, and no one is truly safe until everyone has equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines,” said McCostlin. “A frontline worker in Malawi needs the vaccine just as much as a health care worker in Chicago. With the support of partners, we are working to restart the lives of children and families all over the world.”

UNICEF is working night and day to ensure that low- and lower-middle-income countries have access to lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines, while continuing to help children around the world survive and thrive. Join the global fight to end the pandemic.