“I think people in Western countries generally tend to forget about the importance of vaccination because we’re all vaccinated [against most common diseases],” said John Johnson, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical vaccination referent for epidemic response. “So people don’t see what happens when you’re not.”
MSF teams see firsthand what happens to communities when vaccines are out of reach—from measles epidemics in remote regions of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to cholera outbreaks in war-torn Yemen, to a rare outbreak of diphtheria in refugee camps for Rohingya people in Bangladesh. In places with fragile or collapsed health systems, people often miss out on routine vaccinations that protect against certain diseases. This is especially true during humanitarian emergencies—including conflicts and natural and human-made disasters.
With decades of experience in outbreak response, we have learned some important lessons about how to use vaccines alongside other tools to effectively end an epidemic. We often have to adapt and innovate to meet the evolving needs.