Health equity

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Gavi has helped dramatically boost access to vaccines in developing countries

Still, 19.9 million children do not receive a full course of the most basic vaccines

Credit: Gavi/2012/Sala Lewis

Credit: Gavi/2012/Sala Lewis.

Since 2000, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance has helped dramatically improve access to life-saving vaccines and reduce the time lag between the availability of vaccines in rich and poor countries.

With our support, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccines are now provided in all low-income countries – from only around 5% in 2000.1  

Children in developing countries now have greater access to vaccines than to almost any other health intervention, free of charge and through the national system, and boys and girls are reached at equal levels globally.1,2 But 19.9 million children still do not have access to a full course of the most basic vaccines, 80% of whom are in Gavi-supported countries.3 Only 7% get all 11 vaccines that WHO recommends for infants in all countries.


In 2016, a child born in a low-income country was 14 times more likely to die before reaching the age of five than a child in a high-income country.4  

There are still around 1.5 million vaccine-preventable child deaths each year due to measles, neonatal tetanus, pertussis, Hib, rotavirus diarrhoea and pneumococcal disease. Rotavirus diarrhoea and pneumococcal disease alone represent over half of these deaths.

The children who miss out on life-saving vaccines are often those in the poorest households and the most remote locations, and whose mothers have a low level of education. Gavi aims to support countries to increase immunisation coverage everywhere and make it more equitable, to ensure all children are protected with the miracle of vaccines.


Life, survival, maximum development, access to health and access to health services are not just basic needs of children and adolescents, but fundamental human rights.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child  

Good health leads to social and economic development, enabling people to reach their full potential as active and productive members of society. Immunised children have higher cognitive abilities and are more likely to attend school and go on to be productive members of their community. It also encourages investment in human capital as investors often shun environments in which the labour force suffers a heavy disease burden.5  

Preventing illness and disability especially protects the poorest households, who often do not have financial safety nets and are vulnerable to unexpected income losses.6 

Some of the world's leading experts on development economics have identified six health-related issues in their list of the top 10 most cost-effective ways to improve global welfare.7 

"Improving the health of the poor is an end in itself, a fundamental goal of economic development; but it is also a means to achieving the other development goals relating to poverty reduction," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former WHO Director-General and the first Chair of the Gavi Board.

1 Boerma T. et al., Countdown 2008 Equity Analysis Group, Mind the gap: equity and trends in coverage of maternal, newborn, and child health services in 54 Countdown countries. The Lancet. 2008;371:1259–67.

2 Hilber AM, McKenzie O, Gari S et al. Gender and immunisation summary report. Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. 2010

3 WHO/UNICEF Estimates of National Immunization Coverage, 2017

4 World Health Organization. Under-five mortality. Available at:  

5 World Health Organization. Vaccine-preventable diseases: monitoring system. 2010 Global Summary.

6 Lawson S, Douglas DB. Health buys wealth. Goldman Sachs, Global Markets Institute. 2009 Dec 3.

7 Jamison, D, Jha P, Laxminarayan R et al. Copenhagen Consensus 2012 Challenge: Infectious Disease, Injury and Reproductive Health.

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