Gavi Launches $100m Initiative to Reach Unvaccinated Children
A baby being vaccinated against measles in Gonzagueville, Côte d’Ivoire.

A new $100 million initiative to identify and reach zero-dose children – those who have not received a single routine vaccine shot – has been launched today by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and World Vision (WV)

The Zero-Dose Immunization Programme (ZIP) will be led by the International Rescue Committee in the Horn of Africa, and World Vision in the Sahel regions respectively, reaching 11 countries. As of 2020, there were over four million zero-dose children living across these targeted countries. 

Building on two decades of remarkable progress in expanding the reach of immunization – which has seen the number of children dying from vaccine-preventable diseases in lower-income countries drop by 70% – Gavi’s latest five-year strategy seeks to push even further. 

“Lower-income countries have made remarkable progress in immunization over the last two decades but too many children, particularly those in hard-to-reach areas and fragile and conflict settings are still missing out on life-saving vaccines,” said Anuradha Gupta, Gavi’s deputy CEO.

“We have an opportunity now to build on the progress so far, and reach ‘zero-dose’ children with vaccines as well as other essential health services. There is a reason these communities are consistently missed and therefore to achieve our goal we need innovative approaches, dedicated focus and resourcing, and new partnerships to address their unique needs and realities. 

Reducing ‘zero-dose’ children by 25%

Gavi and its partners aim to reduce the number of zero-dose children globally by 25% in 2021-2025 by addressing barriers that prevent access to immunization. 

ZIP, which falls under Gavi’s new $500 million Equity Accelerator Fund, will commence with a 3-month inception phase during which children will be identified alongside the unique barriers, including gender-related barriers. 

At the end of the inception phase, work plans and relevant targets will be defined, with the goal of addressing identified barriers and reaching as many zero-dose children as possible to increase full immunization. 

Governments will also play a central role in the inception and implementation phase of the initiative and will be involved in the decision-making process. 

Gavi’s Equity Accelerator Fund is dedicated to reducing zero-dose burden in lower-income countries by investing in targeted initiatives. While $100 million will be provided to ZIP, the remaining $400 million will go directly to Gavi-supported countries to identify where zero-dose children are and to sustainably reach them with a full range of vaccines. 

New partnerships needed to close immunization gap

With half of all under-five deaths occurring in zero-dose children, IRC President David Miliband emphasized the need for new partnerships to close the immunization gap. 

“The IRC is proud to be joining forces with Gavi on this urgent issue at this vital time. Traditional approaches have left more than 12 million children without routine vaccination services, and we are determined to show that new partnerships with diverse actors can deliver results and save children’s lives,“ said Miliband. 

The International Rescue Committee will focus their efforts in Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. World Vision will take the lead in Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Both IRC and WV were chosen for their extensive experience in conflict areas and strong footprint in remote areas. 

“We are committed to partnership—at every level—as it will be critical to address the systemic challenges and barriers limiting access to vaccines,” said Margaret Schuler, Senior Vice President, International Programs for World Vision US.

Image Credits: UNICEF.

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