Humanly Possible: Protecting Immunization’s Profound Progress

Last updated April 24, 2024

Written by: Harriet Riley, Advocacy and Creative Specialist, UNICEF, & Nico D’Auterive, Global Health Senior Communications & Advocacy Officer, United Nations Foundation

In Indonesia, Hafis Wahab shows his marked finger after receiving the polio vaccine. © UNICEF / U.S. CDC / Ulit Ifansasti

2024 will go down in history as a critical year for immunization. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is seeking replenishment from donor governments –– enough to keep doses flowing for the next five years. At the same time, many low- and middle-income countries are striving (with varying degrees of success) to catch up the children who missed out on vaccines during the pandemic. Because of pandemic backsliding – as well as humanitarian crises, economic downturn, and climate change – we’ve seen outbreaks of once-controlled diseases like measles and polio. And yet, amidst a myriad of other issues in the headlines, there’s no guarantee that governments will make the necessary investments to get immunization back on track.

Enter Humanly Possible, a sector-wide campaign calling on governments to fund immunization – domestically via their own health budgets in the case of key low- and middle-income nations and internationally via Gavi and other multilateral initiatives in the case of target donor nations. Humanly Possible aims to engage the public in action online and offline to demonstrate their support for vaccines, thereby letting governments know that now is no time to stop investing.

The name refers to the profound historic successes of vaccines – from the eradication of smallpox, to the near-eradication of polio, to radical reductions in child mortality enabled by vaccines since the mid-20th century. Vaccines are one of our species’ greatest achievements, demonstrating just what we’re capable of when we work together. In the age of the polycrisis, this positive message aims to cut through the gloom and seed a desire to protect the good we, as humanity, have accomplished.

Vials of the malaria vaccine at a government cold storage facility in Lilongwe, Malawi. © UNICEF / U.S. CDC / Daylin Paul

2024 also happens to be the fiftieth anniversary of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), the standard schedule of childhood vaccines and the global push to ensure all children receive them. On April 24, alongside the kickoff of World Immunization Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) with The Lancet is scheduled to release comprehensive new research revealing just how many lives vaccines have saved in the last 50 years. World Immunization Week will also mark the launch of the Humanly Possible campaign, which will continue until the Gavi replenishment in late-2024 or early-2025.

Humanly Possible is spearheaded by WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who have been leading the creation of a website, key messages, and social media content for other organizations to adapt and use across their own channels and advocacy efforts. A toolkit is available in all the working UN languages. All organizations interested in immunization are invited to deploy the assets across their channels, engage their high-profile supporters and senior staff, and invite their partners to participate.

The Humanly Possible logo can be attached to any immunization-related activity this year that bears the key ask of government funding for vaccines. By acting together through a shared campaign, we’re able to achieve greater scale than any one organization on its own. It also lets decisionmakers know we’re serious, and that vaccines should remain at the top of the agenda in 2024.

You can learn more about Humanly Possible and how to get involved on the campaign website.

About the AuthorS

Harriet Riley is an Advocacy and Creative Specialist at UNICEF Global, where she has worked on the issues of refugees, climate change, and COVID-19. Prior to UNICEF, Harriet was a Senior Strategist at Purpose, a consultancy-meets-creative agency specializing in social impact. Her clients included the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UN Environment, and WHO. She holds a master’s in investigative journalism from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in climate change and international relations from the Australian National University and Copenhagen University.

Nico D’Auterive is a Senior Global Health Communications & Advocacy Officer at the UN Foundation. Prior to joining UN Foundation, Nico oversaw global, national, and local communications campaigns in the US and abroad with various NGOs, including Doctor’s Without Borders (MSF) and FXB International. She has worked in Haiti, Ukraine, Nigeria, and Colombia. Nico holds a master’s in international development and global health from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencesPo) and an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Columbia University.

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