By Melina Scarfo
25 May 2021

In Australia, getting routine vaccinations is as easy as a visit to your local doctor. We live in a country where every adult will have free access to the COVID-19 vaccine when they are eligible.

But for families in some of the world’s most remote, vulnerable and rural places, vaccination is a massive undertaking and wouldn’t be possible without UNICEF teams on the ground. Thankfully, our teams are up to the challenge. Each year, we vaccinate almost half of the world’s children against preventable diseases, so we know vaccines! 

Now the largest vaccine operation is underway, and UNICEF is leading the way. We’re on a mission to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers and vulnerable communities – no matter where they are or how hard it is to reach them. 

It’s a huge job, from buying vaccines to delivery. This is how we do it. 

1. Buy the vaccines 

UNICEF is the largest buyer of vaccines in the world. We have relationships with vaccine manufacturers which means we can purchase vaccines at the best prices for the world’s most vulnerable.  

This year we aim to deliver more than 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable and hard to reach communities. 

A marshaller signals a plane carrying a shipment of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in Uganda.
A marshaller signals a plane carrying a shipment of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in Uganda.
© UNICEF/UN0426528/Musinguzi

2. Keep them cool

Vaccines are sent directly by plane from the manufacturer as refrigerated cargo to the country where they will be used - this is called the cold chain.  

If the temperature is too high or too low the vaccine can lose its potency. But when kept at the correct temperature, a single jab can be life-saving. 

Officials at the district vaccine store room in Jumla District in Nepal's remote far west unpack the COVID-19 vaccines.
Officials at the district vaccine store room in Jumla District in Nepal's remote far west unpack the COVID-19 vaccines.
© UNICEF/UN0431107

3. Quality control 

Our teams then check the vaccines to ensure they have not been damaged or kept at the wrong temperature en route. The vaccines continue to be stored in cold rooms, ready to be taken to health centres. 

Porters carrying COVID-19 vaccines to health facilities in Jumla District in Nepal’s remote far-west region.
Porters carrying COVID-19 vaccines to health facilities in Jumla District in Nepal’s remote far-west region.
© UNICEF/UN0431117/ Prasad Ngakhusi

4. Delivery heroes go the distance

Dedicated field workers carry vaccines in cold boxes, traveling by car, motorcycle, bicycle, donkey, boat, camel or on foot to reach even the most places. We’ll always find a way. 

Community health volunteer Homaya Gurung receives the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a health post in the Gorkha District in north-central Nepal.
Community health volunteer Homaya Gurung receives the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a health post in the Gorkha District in north-central Nepal.
© UNICEF/UN0447368/Prasad Ngakhusi

5. The jab!  

Once they’ve reached their destination, vaccines are delivered by trained health care staff. People across the world roll up their sleeves because they believe in the power of vaccines and know that they work. COVID-19 isn’t over until it’s over for everyone.

We’re urgently vaccinating frontline health workers, teachers and social workers to keep millions of children safe, healthy and learning. 

Vaccinating the world against the biggest pandemic for a generation is no easy task. UNICEF has the expertise and the experience, but we cannot do it alone. We need your help to build a world where everyone has the same protection against this pandemic.

Find out how you can get involved

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