Millions on the Move Reached by Vaccination Programmes: World Immunization Week

IOM Iraq conducted an emergency response to assist Iraq’s National Tuberculosis Program and the Central Public Health Laboratory in providing continued tuberculosis treatment and other health services. Photo: Rafal Abdulateef/IOM 2022

World Immunization Week, celebrated from 24-30 April, is a yearly campaign to “highlight the collective action needed and promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.” The International Organization for Migration (IOM) seizes the occasion to highlight the importance of vaccination coverage for people on the move.

To mitigate the risk of communicable diseases, especially those that are vaccine-preventable, IOM reaches thousands of migrants with immunizations every year. In 2023, IOM provided over 3.3 million people with vaccinations in outbreak settings, or as part of mass catch-up campaigns and routine vaccinations. The Organization coordinates its vaccination activities with national authorities, and other key partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and more, offering vaccines against 22 diseases to migrant and displaced people.

This year, the Organization also recognized an important milestone: the vaccination of over 600,000 refugees with the direction and funding of the US Government’s Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), achieved in early 2024.

IOM is a key player in global efforts to ensure that migrants and mobile populations have access to routine vaccinations, in both crisis and non-crisis contexts. For decades, as part of broader resettlement, migration health and movement assistance programming, the Organization has provided valuable support for refugee resettlement to the United States – since the USRAP vaccination programme started in 2012, more than 600,000 refugees have received pre-arrival vaccinations. In recent years, IOM has expanded this vaccination initiative to other refugee and migrant programmes, helping improve the health of migrants worldwide and facilitate migration, making it as safe as possible for all actors.

Migrants in the Aigle transit centre receive vaccines against COVID-19. IOM has been providing technical and logistical support to national health authorities in Niger to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines can be delivered to all, including migrants. Photo: IOM 2021/Daniel Kisito Kouawo

Beyond this vital programming, IOM has also been working on several important partnerships and innovative solutions in this area, notably by increasing the availability of vaccines via global procurement in collaboration with UNICEF; using Population Mobility Mapping to target hard-to-reach and under-vaccinated populations in Afghanistan; strengthening cold chain solutions in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and other countries; developing an app to help migrants improve their vaccination status with appointments and reminders;  as well as addressing low vaccine acceptance and vaccine hesitancy in a number of countries including the Republic of Moldova, Poland and Thailand.

A Syrian migrant receives medical attention at IOM's Migration Health Assessment Clinic in Istanbul, where migrants and refugees resettling to third countries receive medical check-up services. Photo: IOM

IOM plays a leading role in supporting governments and communities to build health systems that are equipped to address public health concerns along mobility pathways, in line with the 2005 International Health Regulations and Global Health Security efforts.

IOM’s health outreach team provides primary health care services and medicine in a displacement site in Saber Al Mawadem district in Ta’iz. Years of conflict in Yemen have resulted in a near collapse of an already fragile. Photo: IOM 2022/Majed Mohammed

World Health Immunization Week 2024 will mark 50 years of WHO’s Expanded Programme on immunization – inaugurated in 1974 as part of global efforts to ensure equitable access to life-saving vaccines for every child. Through strong partnerships and high-level commitments, collective action can help realize the goal of the campaign: for more people to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.