The climate crisis is a fundamental factor in the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases globally – through climate-sensitive diseases, including vectors expanding into new regions; and a surge in extreme weather events. Lower-income countries are disproportionately affected when disaster strikes: clean water and sanitation may be interrupted, access to and delivery of essential health services disrupted, and people temporarily or permanently displaced. Gavi's programmes are adapting to sustain routine immunisation, and respond to and prevent outbreaks, to prevent further loss of life.
"In my country – where climate-change and displacement are making it harder, not easier, to deliver health services – vaccines are an essential way to manage outbreaks and save lives."
- Dr Abdelmadjid Abderahim, Minister of Public Health and Prevention, Chad
Along with droughts and floods, deforestation, earthquakes and extreme temperatures, climate-sensitive disease outbreaks continue to rise. Mass migration, urbanisation, deforestation and continued encroachment by humans into animal habitats means that diseases can spread quickly across borders and around the globe. Climate change has pushed mosquitoes that spread malaria into higher elevations, spelling trouble for the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, chikungunya and dengue. Climate disasters are increasing the risk of waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea caused by cholera and typhoid. Also, climate change exacerbates antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which could result in 10 million annual deaths globally by 2050.
Marginalised communities in fragile and conflict settings are often disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. In 2022, Gavi launched the Zero-Dose Immunization Programme (ZIP) across 11 countries in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel to reach children in displaced communities, and fragile and conflict settings, with adaptive and responsive immunisation service delivery models to help build their health resilience – including against the impacts of climate change. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, in response to the devastating 2022 floods, Gavi's Fragility, Emergency and Displaced Populations (FED) Policy was mobilised to provide surge support, including both additional district-level surveillance, as well as equipped rapid outbreak response teams – enabling provinces and partners to target responses quickly based on real-time information.
In 2022, political momentum on the climate change and global health agendas have gained more traction across policy forums. Gavi engaged in relevant dialogues, including the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, G20, UN General Assembly, Group of Friends of Human Security and UN-Energy, to promote alignment on health equity and reaching zero-dose children and missed, marginalised communities with routine immunisation. This is key to building resilience and preparedness against health emergencies, including those related to climate change.
The world's ability to respond to outbreaks is a bellwether of its ability to respond to future pandemics. A key outcome of Gavi's COVAX learnings is a global health security flywheel of innovation, training and preparedness. To learn more, we invite you to explore our collection of original research reports on the Gavi website: www.gavi.org/news-resources/documentlibrary/white-papers
Gavi’s VaccinesWork platform has become a leading resource on climate, health and immunisation. Click here for the latest news and information: www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/tag/climate-change
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the direct damage costs to health from climate change are estimated to be between US$ 2–4 billion per year by 2030. Both budget cuts and climate disasters can lead to disruption of access to electricity and essential health services. Gavi's Health Systems and Immunisation Strengthening (HSIS) programmes are helping to "green" vaccine storage, reduce the carbon footprint of immunisation programmes and enable health facilities to be more resilient when disasters strike (e.g. gap in health care services due to lack of energy).
Historically, much of the off-grid vaccine cold chain in Gavi-supported countries has been gas- or kerosene-powered – unreliable, expensive and carbon-intensive. Launched in 2015, Gavi's Cold Chain Equipment Optimisation Platform (CCEOP) pools technology demands from countries and procurement through UNICEF Supply Division, negotiating with manufacturers for better pricing and effective deployment. Climate-friendly solar-powered refrigeration technologies account for 60% of the more than 65,000 CCE units installed to date across 47 Gavi-supported countries.
Without stable, reliable electricity, energy-reliant medical equipment is unable to serve its purpose. Since 2021, Gavi has been working with Orange in Sierra Leone to support health facility solar electrification (HFSE) to improve immunisation and climate sustainability (see page 52 for more). And in 2022, Gavi began planning to accelerate HFSE at scale – building on CCEOP – to expand off-grid solar solutions in health facilities. Health care waste management Health care waste management (HCWM) is a growing concern across all health areas, including immunisation. Most countries have adopted WHO standards and international agreements for HCWM at the national policy level. Yet often policies are not strictly followed at subnational level. Health care waste (e.g. incineration of medical waste) has had a significant impact on climate change. To help reduce immunisation waste and promote environmentally sustainable practices, Gavi is supporting priority countries with improved technology; training; and partnerships – including with Africa CDC and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Health care waste management (HCWM) is a growing concern across all health areas, including immunisation. Most countries have adopted WHO standards and international agreements for HCWM at the national policy level. Yet often policies are not strictly followed at subnational level. Health care waste (e.g. incineration of medical waste) has had a significant impact on climate change. To help reduce immunisation waste and promote environmentally sustainable practices, Gavi is supporting priority countries with improved technology; training; and partnerships – including with Africa CDC and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
A new report synthesises the experiences and insights of health practitioners on how climate change is affecting the health and well-being of populations in the Global South.
Global warming and El Niño together are causing one of the worst outbreaks of dengue the region has ever seen, prompting a rush to roll out vaccines.
Strategic immunisation can protect lives and livelihoods, but climate change may raise the threat level from the soil-dwelling, zoonotic bacterium.