Making a difference

EPI celebrates its 50th anniversary

Five decades of progress

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), an initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1974. Its aim was to make routine life-saving vaccines accessible to every child, regardless of where they lived in the world – a mission which has always remained at the heart of what we do at Dulas since we were founded in 1982. Five decades on, it is difficult to over-emphasise the incredible impact of the work carried out by the EPI.

Now commonly referred to as the Essential Programme on Immunization, the EPI works with other public health programmes to promote and implement vaccination programmes that improve the health and resilience of populations across the globe.

How the EPI began

The EPI started by focusing on protecting children from six vaccine-preventable diseases:

For many of us, these diseases are a thing of the past, but in remote parts of the world where access to healthcare is less reliable, diseases such as these still threaten lives and livelihoods. To put this into perspective, 1.5 million people die from tuberculosis every year, making it the world’s top infectious killer, yet it is entirely preventable. Thanks to the efforts of organisations such as the EPI in combatting this disease, 75 million lives have been saved since 2000, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

The cornerstone of public health

Vaccines are amongst the safest, most cost-effective and successful measures that a public health body can take to prevent childhood fatalities and enhance the quality of life of people living in remote communities. Today, every country has a national immunisation programme, but this wasn’t always the case. The work undertaken by organisations such as EPI, WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), who were set up with a specific mandate to ensure vaccines are accessible to all, means that millions of lives are saved globally.

Vaccines: A success story

+ Vaccines are helping to eliminate cervical cancer

+ A vaccine can now stem the spread of Ebola outbreaks before they take hold

+ Vaccines were critical throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Vaccines in numbers


Polio paralysis in children has been almost eliminated over the past three decades


In 1980, smallpox was declared officially eradicated, saving millions from death, disfigurement and blindness


Over 300m people in the meningitis-belt countries have been vaccinated against the disease since 2010

Vaccination programmes rely on supply chains

Of course, vaccines can only save lives as part of a vaccination programme, and the EPI has been instrumental in building the infrastructure required to implement such campaigns. This infrastructure helped to facilitate the rapid rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Other initiatives spearheaded by the EPI include the promotion of injection safety practices and highlighting the need for an adequate cold chain to support vaccination campaigns – for example the provision of solar power for health centres where power supply is unreliable.

Many vaccines require rigorous temperature control within a cold chain that extends from the manufacturer through to transport and, eventually, the health centre where the vaccine is used. Four decades ago, Dulas developed its Solar Direct Drive (SDD) vaccine refrigerators for health facilities located in areas with intermittent or non-existent grid/power supply. Today, Dulas vaccine refrigerators are used in remote communities throughout the world, making an enormous difference to the lives of the people living in those areas, and the continued work of the EPI is integral to the provision of vaccines and vaccine cold chain equipment into these communities.

Looking to the future

Globally, we are facing uncertainties such as climate change, further pandemics and political unrest. As well as working to catch up on routine childhood vaccinations missed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPI is poised to adapt its strategies and remain a driving force in shaping health outcomes for the next five decades. We have no doubt that the EPI will continue to be ambitious in its quest to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all populations, wherever they live. At Dulas, we hope to play a small part in this mission by continuing to supply vaccine cold chain equipment to some of the most remote parts of the world.

Vaccination day at a health centre in Togo

This year, it’s really important to look at how much progress the EPI has made over the past five decades. They have contributed to some remarkable milestones – the eradication of smallpox, expanding childhood vaccination programmes, establishing robust vaccine supply chains so that vaccines can reach the most remote areas. There’s still a lot to be done, of course, but we applaud the work of the EPI – what a tremendous five decades of progress.

Catherine McLennan
Commercial Lead, Dulas Solar International

Catherine McLennan
Commercial Lead for Solar International

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Solar International Tel: 01654 705 055

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