APR 2021: 1.2 million future deaths prevented, 65 million children newly protected

Gavi’s 2021 Annual Progress Report, released today, is a record in numbers of another difficult pandemic year – a year of alarming setbacks, and a year of hard-won gains.

  • 29 September 2022
  • 4 min read
  • by Gavi Staff
APR 2021
APR 2021


It hardly needs saying: as far as public health was concerned, 2021 was an uphill struggle. Amid the system-wide stresses exerted by an ongoing, rapacious pandemic, routine immunisation in Gavi-supported countries took a hit for the second year running.

But the Alliance’s eyes are on the future: by 2030, if Gavi gets its way, the tally of people left behind with life-saving vaccines will stand at exactly zero.

Basic coverage rates slipped a percentage point from 2020 levels to 77%, according to Gavi’s newly-released Annual Progress Report, and the number of “zero-dose” children in Gavi countries – kids completely unprotected by vaccines – swelled to 12.5 million by year’s end.

That’s alarming news, making the mission to find and reach this most vulnerable cohort – the driving force of Gavi’s 2021–2025 strategy – more urgent than ever.

Green shoots

But there are green shoots already visible in last year’s data landscape. Even as routine vaccination dipped overall, two-thirds of African countries bounced back to pre-pandemic immunisation levels or began their recovery, and one-third of Gavi countries saw routine immunisation rates increase against 2020’s. Preliminary data from 2022, offering a partial insight, indicates ongoing improvement.

Though COVID-19 dealt an economic body-blow to most nations, Gavi’s partner countries were able to commit a record US$ 161 million to the co-financing of Gavi-supported vaccines in 2021 – a figure which points towards a robust, sustainable future for these immunisation programmes. In fact, as of 2021, 49 vaccine programmes originally introduced with Gavi backing are now completely self-financed by country governments.



And there were massive gains in absolute terms. Sixty-five million children received protection from Gavi-supported vaccines last year. Gavi-supported vaccinations in 2021 translate to 1.2 million future deaths averted and 59 million future disability-adjusted life-years saved.


Emergency stockpiles of vaccines against cholera, Ebola, meningococcal meningitis and yellow fever, supported by Gavi, were accessed 25 times by 14 countries seeking to shield at-risk communities and curtail outbreaks threatening to flare into wildfire epidemics.

And against that other virus, the one too new to ring-fence with vaccines before it began running laps of the globe? For that there was COVAX. On 16 January 2021, just 39 days after the first dose of any COVID-19 vaccine was administered to anyone, anywhere, the first COVAX-supplied vaccine was delivered in a Gavi-COVAX supported lower income country. Forty-four days later, COVAX doses were rolling out in Africa. By year’s end, COVAX had delivered just shy of a billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, 88% of those to people in the lower-income countries that rich-country vaccine nationalism had elbowed to the back of the queue.


Meantime, Gavi also supported the introduction of 39 vaccines to country health systems, helping to better protect populations against threats ranging from cervical cancer, to typhoid, to deadly measles and pneumonia, yellow fever and meningitis, and resurgent polio.

And just before the year closed, in December 2021, the Gavi Board made history by opting to fund the roll-out of a pathbreaking immunological technology – the world’s first malaria vaccine – in sub-Saharan Africa. Decades in development, the vaccine, which is also the world’s first jab against any kind of parasite, promises to offer a new, vital line of defence against a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of children each year.

Upward spirals

Health gains like these ripple outwards, from bodies into economies; from individuals to communities to societies. In 2021, Gavi’s work helped generate more than US$ 18.9 billion in economic benefits in Gavi-supported countries.

We’ve seen this upward spiral spin before: cumulatively, Gavi’s interventions since the year 2000 have now helped reach 981 million children with routine vaccines, get 1.4 billion vaccines into arms during campaigns; helped avert 16.2 million future deaths and generate US$ 185.3 billion in economic benefits in supported countries.

But the Alliance’s eyes are on the future: by 2030, if Gavi gets its way, the tally of people left behind with life-saving vaccines will stand at exactly zero.

Download the report