As the ninth year of the Get a Shot. Give a Shot.® program comes to an end, we celebrate Walgreens and Shot@Life’s ongoing goal to save lives by helping vaccinate children around the world. This partnership was especially crucial when immunization campaigns were disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which put millions of children’s health at risk.
Since 2013, Walgreens and Shot@Life have helped provide more than 70 million lifesaving vaccines to children around the world. Therefore, measles and polio vaccines have been distributed in over 15 countries and counting, in partnership with UN agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
Join us in taking a closer look at the vaccine landscape in the countries where Walgreens’ investment has helped protect children against some of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases.
Beginning in July 2020, Guinea experienced a resurgence of circulating polio, which led to 51 recorded cases among children under 15 years old. In response to this resurgence, regional authorities and immunization providers launched into action, organizing National Immunization Days throughout the country to stop the spread of this deadly disease. National Immunization Days were held in Guinea’s health districts with the goal of immunizing nearly three million children under five years old.
In order to combat the additional challenge of widespread rumors and skepticism of vaccines, local authorities mobilized alongside providers to help reassure the population about the safety and importance of vaccines. For example, Ourémba Traoré, Cabinet Director of the Governorate of Labé, encouraged communities to open their doors to vaccinators. He recalled a case where a family hid their child during the immunization campaign – only later for the child to become ill and lose the use of his limbs due to polio. The situation was tragic, highlighting the importance of educating families early on before it is too late.
“You have a huge responsibility,” Traoré emphasized to communities and parents. “Get involved so as to preserve the health of your children.”
Measles remains a major threat in Pakistan, as the country is among the top five countries with the lowest level of measles immunization coverage. Yemen, Tanzania, India, and Nigeria are also on that list. The disease has been circulating in Pakistan for decades. However, further decreases in immunization activities due to COVID-19 have led to a growing number of outbreaks in recent years – 17,000 suspected measles and rubella cases were reported in Pakistan in 2021, double the reported cases in all of 2020. For these reasons, Pakistan was identified by WHO as a priority country for measles elimination efforts last year.
In November 2021, Pakistan launched a historic nationwide campaign to vaccinate more than 90 million children against measles and rubella. The campaign had an ambitious goal of reaching over 95% coverage and consisted of more than 386,000 health professionals supported by UNICEF, WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and partners. It was one of the largest vaccine campaigns in history.
Although the country still has a long way to go in controlling the deadly disease, leadership has demonstrated a strong political and administrative commitment toward restoring halted immunization efforts in the pandemic and ensuring children have access to lifesaving vaccines.
2021 marked the 30th anniversary of the last case of polio in the Americas. The region was the first in the world to be certified as polio-free by WHO over 25 years ago. However, vaccination rates have declined in recent years due to the pandemic and increased vaccine hesitancy, leading public health officials across the region to call for a renewed commitment to immunization efforts.
Venezuela is a country where vaccine-preventable diseases, such as polio, have begun to resurface in recent years. In 2020, UNICEF brought 7.3 million vaccines against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases to the country. The organization also provided technical assistance to the country’s health teams to support national vaccination days and ensure that the most vulnerable populations could be reached. Venezuelan health workers are essential in the immunization effort and work tirelessly to ensure that the country’s children are protected against deadly diseases, often working more than 12-hour days, while traveling on foot to secluded communities.
Efforts like these require a firm commitment from global health organizations to implement and fund critical immunization efforts. Polio and measles immunization campaigns are possible thanks to a variety of partnerships, including Walgreens’ Get a Shot. Give a Shot®. As COVID-19 continues to threaten routine immunization progress, it will require strong partnerships and global collaboration to ensure that all children have access to lifesaving vaccines, no matter where they live.
Learn more about how you can get involved in these efforts through Get a Shot. Give a Shot® here.