Vaccine Heroes

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A new Gavi photo exhibition in Geneva celebrates the health workers, campaigners, scientists and parents who reach millions of children with life-saving vaccines every year.

Vaccine heroes exhibit

Geneva, 10 September 2018 - Every year, vaccines save millions of lives. Every day, they prevent illness and death. None of this would be possible without the vaccinators, nurses, doctors, advocates, celebrities, scientists and parents: the vaccine heroes. It is only through their dedication that we are able to reach millions of children with vaccines every year.

The photographs in the exhibition convey the stories of these vaccine heroes, the challenges they face and the successes they achieve in their every day work. The vaccine heroes prove their determination every day through their their hard work, without which the Vaccine Alliance would not be able to vaccinate millions of children every year. This photo exhibition provides us with the opportunity to remember, thank and celebrate them.

"We know that vaccines have already wiped out one killer disease and we know that millions of people are alive today thanks to these life-savers. This exhibition allows us to focus on the people who are working every day to make that change happen," said Dr Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO, at the formal opening of the Vaccine Heroes photo exhibition by Lac Léman in downtown Geneva, Switzerland. "Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and its partners are proud to support these heroes as they work to help the world’s poorest countries build sustainable futures."

By the end of 2018, Gavi will have supported the immunisation of nearly 700 million children and saved 10 million lives. "To be wealthy, you have to be healthy," said Dr Berkley at the opening of the exhibition.

"This is about every single person – about every parent who wants to see their children doing well," added Dr Berkley. The Lady Health Workers of Pakistan (including those pictured below) go door-to-door in the slums of Karachi with few details or data to find all the children who need vital polio vaccines. Once they locate the children, they can reach families with other immunisation and basic health services.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, commented that there can be "no health for all without vaccines for all," as he reflected on 70 years of WHO, noting that vaccines have played a central role in some of the organisation’s most notable achievements.

Dr Tedros referred to his concerns about the increase in vaccine hesitancy and the need to counter this through unity and conviction. Jonathan, a volunteer in Zambia, has demonstrated this conviction. After realising that the role of community volunteers was necessary to combat a recent cholera outbreak, he became heavily involved in administering oral cholera vaccines. Overall, 600,000 doses of cholera vaccine were distributed during the outbreak.

Anuradha Gupta, Gavi Deputy CEO, underlined the life-saving impact of science and technology in the ability of vaccines to save millions of lives every year.

Ms Gupta praised the vaccine heroes who travel great distances carrying vaccines to protect children. Among these heroes is Sister Sofia. In rural areas like Afar, a rural herding community in Ethiopia, very few children have traditionally received vaccines against measles. Sofia not only has to find children in families that are often on the move, she must also convince parents that immunisation is important and worthwhile.

“The ones saving lives are increasingly at risk of losing theirs,” said Clemens Adams, Director, Division of Administration of the United Nations Office in Geneva. Indeed, vaccine heroes may often operate in areas where their safety is under serious threat.

As well as safety, many areas lack infrastructure, making it difficult for vaccine heroes to reach populations and vice versa. Alice is a mother in South Sudan who experiences these challenges, particularly during the rainy season. “I had to travel far to the city for [my children] to be given immunisations, and for my fourth child, it was too late. This has made me very determined to vaccinate all of the children, and now in fact there is a clinic in our village where we can take the children for protection.”

Dr Awele Elumelu, Gavi Immunization Champion in Africa, emphasized the importance of advocating for the health of children and the incredible impact vaccines have had on medicine.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance thanks its numerous partners: WHO, UNICEF, the Global Fund, Nexleaf Analytics, PATH, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, JSI and the UN Foundation, for their contributions to the exhibition, as well as the City of Geneva.

The free exhibition will be on display until 6th October in Geneva at the Rotonde du Mont-Blanc, opposite Hotel Beau Rivage.


US$ 1 = US$ 18

A study in Health Affairs covering 73 Gavi-supported countries over the 2011–2020 period shows that, for every US$ 1 spent on immunisation, US$ 18 are saved in healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity due to illness. If we take into account the broader benefits of people living longer, healthier lives, the return on investment rises to US$ 48 per US$ 1 spent.

Ozawa S, Clark S, Portnoy A et al. Return on investment from childhood immunizations in low- and middle-income countries, 2011-20, Health Affairs 2016

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