A pandemic like COVID-19 is a reminder of how quickly infectious diseases can spread, and how many people they affect around the world in a matter of weeks. We don’t yet know how the pandemic will progress and how long it will take for a vaccine to be developed, but the knowledge and experience gained from past outbreaks can be applied to the global response to coronavirus. 

In an ever-connected world, transmission is faster than ever which, along with factors like climate change, mass migration and urbanisation, makes the spread of viruses even harder to contain. 

The first line of defence is preventing the outbreak in the first place. This includes measures like immunisation campaigns, steps to strengthen primary health care systems and investing in training for health workers.  

These are all highly effective health interventions but when an outbreak does occur, we need to be prepared to quickly deploy vaccines to protect affected communities and limit the spread. That’s where emergency stockpiles come in. These act as a last resort and as insurance that a vaccine will be available and can be delivered rapidly. 

Watch as Aurélia Nguyen, the managing director of vaccines, and Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley explain when, why and how an emergency vaccine stockpile is used to tackle an epidemic: 


Credit: Gavi/2020/Script: Elinore Court - Video: Svetlomir Slavchev

Which stockpiles does Gavi currently fund? 

Cholera, Yellow Fever, meningococcal disease and Ebola. These emergency stockpiles have helped to assure the global community that there will always be a number of vaccines ready at all times. 

What are the steps to deploy vaccines? 

As soon as a country reports a sufficient number of confirmed cases, they will send a request to the International Coordinating Group who will review the request. If they determine that the number of doses a country is requesting is necessary, they will ship the required doses out immediately. 

What is an example of an effective use of a stockpile? 

The Gavi-funded cholera stockpile played a critical role in protecting people in Bangladesh against the deadly threat of cholera. When there was a sudden influx of Rohingya refugees arriving in Cox’s Bazar, the Alliance assessed the risk and rapidly funded a preventative immunisation campaign. 

By vaccinating refugees as well as the surrounding communities, the Alliance was able to prevent any outbreaks despite a high volume of people moving into an area that had recurrent cholera epidemics. 

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