It’s that time of year again! No, not Christmas (but that is just 122 days away…) – time for immunisation geeks like me to blog on the latest immunisation figures. I wrote my first one of these last year, questioning if we were making progress on tackling inequities. Well a year on, have we made any progress and what exactly are we doing about it here at RESULTS UK?

We’re still at 86%

In terms of overall global coverage, nothing has majorly changed. We were at 86% last year and continue to fall short of the global target to ensure 90% of children are immunised. In 2016, 1 in 10 children did not receive any vaccines, with millions more missing out on the full 11 vaccines recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Increased vaccination coverage can protect children against potentially life threatening diseases like measles, meningitis and pneumonia and help prevent 1.5 million deaths every year.

Mothers wait to have their children vaccinated at a health centre in  Kyamulibwa, Uganda Photo: Will Boase/RESULTS UK

In 2015, six countries had immunisation rates below 50%, and their coverage continues to be below this level. In 2016, Nigeria and Chad seen their immunisation rates drop to 49% and 46% respectively bringing the total up to eight. Nigeria is a middle-income country, and highlights that economic indicators do not always reflect the current situation for the majority of people in a country. This is a particular concern as this year external support for immunisation is changing in Nigeria, at a time when immunisation systems and fragile and only 23% of children receive all recommended vaccines (MICS survey, August 2017)

Beyond the figures – Reasons to be optimistic

Yes, these figures do not paint a positive picture. It’s right to question why hasn’t this figure changed and here at RESULTS we will be continuing to ask. However, we must remember that immunisation is still one of the only health interventions in the world which reaches this many people. In just 16 years, we’ve increased the number of children reached from just 29%. Immunisation is a crucial building block of a health system, and provides multiple points of contact with a health system where children, mothers, and families can access health services beyond being vaccinated. ‘Vaccines for all’ is a critical goal in Global Goal 3 and increasing immunisation rates and building on what we already know will be integral as the world moves towards universal health coverage.

Turning commitments into action

Earlier this year, RESULTS UK released “Owning It: Turning immunisation commitments into action.” The report explores three elements of country ownership: political will, sustainable financing, and programme and policy implementation. These are the three elements we believe to be key to increasing global immunisation rates to protect children suffering unnecessarily from vaccine preventable diseases. These are things we know can change.

Immunisation is one of the best buys in global public health: saving 2-3 million lives a year and with a return on investment of up to $44 for every $1 invested. It’s also an excellent example of the value of UK aid, with UK support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, helping to save a life every two minutes through vaccination. Vaccines work and until we reach universal coverage, RESULTS UK will continue to advocate for more resources and better policies to ensure we reach every child.