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MSF in Action: Delivering lifesaving vaccines to the people most in need

A measles vaccination campaign in Timbuktu, Mali in 2020

Mali 2020 ©MSF/Mohamed Dayfour

Vaccines are one of the most effective public health tools and a simple way to save lives. Yet, in 2020, 17.1 million children did not receive their basic vaccinations—the first increase in this number in the last decade. Our teams are rapidly responding to reach as many as possible to prevent a future health crisis.  

In 2020, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical teams reached people in need with over 4.3 million vaccine doses. With your support, we can do more. 

The urgency of routine vaccinations during COVID-19 

More than 51 countries around the world have had to pause or postpone vaccination campaigns due to disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We know firsthand how delays like this can lead to deadly—and preventable—outbreaks. That’s why, from refugee camps in Greece to warzones in Yemen, we’re finding ways to reach people with routine vaccinations even in the midst of COVID-19.  

Support our vaccine efforts and other work around the world

Behind the scenes: Vaccines and the cold chain 

Most vaccines must be kept cold throughout their journeys—from the moment of manufacture until they reach the arms of our patients. MSF has over 50 years of experience streamlining this process.  

Innovation in action: Thermostable vaccines

Maintaining the cold chain can be both expensive and challenging. In places without refrigeration or where electricity is unreliable, a precious store of vaccines may become unusable in just hours. That’s why we’re also researching and implementing the use of vaccines that don’t require sustained cooling. A thermostable rotavirus vaccine has shown great success and has the potential to save many more lives. 

Tackling epidemics and pandemics

During deadly outbreaks like measles, cholera, or Ebola, unchecked cases can rapidly devastate a community. Our teams react swiftly to provide lifesaving vaccines, treatment, and epidemiological services. From setting up temporary facilities to treat patients to running mass vaccination campaigns to improving water and sanitation services which help prevent the spread of disease, MSF teams adapt our emergency responses to the unique needs of communities. 

Innovation in action: Cholera kits

Cholera is extremely contagious and fast-moving. Without treatment, a patient can lose up to 25 liters of fluid per day and die in a matter of hours. Because quick response is so critical to saving lives, we developed cholera treatment kits that can help our teams set up a cholera treatment facility within hours. 

These kits contain key items like rehydration salts, antibiotics, and IVs along with chlorine and plastic sheeting used to create a sterile setting, and are stored in our warehouses, ready to ship at a moment’s notice. 


cholera vaccine doses

given by MSF in 2019


people in Yemen

treated for cholera by MSF between 2017-2019


people immunized

in MSF's largest cholera vaccination campaign (Zambia 2016)

Spotlight: Measles vaccination campaigns in Democratic Republic of Congo

Measles remains a leading killer of young children in parts of the world, even though an effective, low-cost vaccine has been available for decades. The challenges center around education, community trust, and reaching children in conflict zones or remote areas. 

In Yemen and Afghanistan, measles has made a resurgence after armed conflict and instability left their health systems in ruins. Chad, Niger, and Nigeria face obstacles with vaccination supply and interruptions in the cold chain. In Democratic Republic of Congo, our teams have been tackling recurring epidemic outbreaks.  Here, the challenges are many. Our teams continue to work to overcome them. 

Since 2006, MSF has vaccinated nearly 26 million children against measles. 

Spotlight: COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Puerto Rico

In 2021, MSF teams battled COVID-19 in 368 projects across 76 countries. Around the world, our teams have been working tirelessly to care for COVID-19 patients in treatment centers and hospitals, provide health education as well as mental health support, offer infection prevention trainings, and support local response efforts. While we do this, we’re also working to ensure that our other lifesaving medical programs continue running amidst this pandemic. 

As always, our priority is to reach vulnerable communities with the care they need. When it comes to COVID-19, that means continuing to find innovative ways to vaccinate people who may be on the move like refugees, those living in remote areas, people experiencing homelessness, and the elderly. 

Our COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Puerto Rico is an excellent example of how we collaborate with community leaders on the ground to ensure we reach those in need.  Puerto Rico Salud—a local organization founded by former MSF medical staff—has used   mobile teams to reach thousands with COVID-19 vaccines  .

MSF: 50 years of vaccine history

Here’s a look back at our work to get lifesaving vaccines to the people who need them most.

Learn more

How you can help

Not everyone can treat patients in the field. But everyone can do something.

Some humanitarian crises make the headlines—others don’t. Unrestricted support from our donors allows us to mobilize quickly and efficiently to provide lifesaving medical care to the people who need it most, whether those needs are in the spotlight or not. And your donation is 100 percent tax-deductible.

We need your support to continue this lifesaving work

We need your support to continue this lifesaving work

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Hear from our medical staff and experts

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