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Health

The art of saving a life (as told by a big green bird)

If I say the word ‘vaccine’ to you, what do you think of? A painful injection at the doctors that you vaguely remember receiving a sticker and a lollypop for undergoing? That expensive thing you got before jetting off travelling? Not that interesting, right? How about if I say ‘cold chain’? Yeah - I didn’t know what it was either. Put the two together, and I switched off altogether.

This was the challenge that illustrator Christoph Niemann took on. Vaccines are actually one of the greatest advances in human history. They have saved millions of lives, and led to better health and opportunity for children and families everywhere. And it’s important that people know this. Every year, 1.5 million children die before their fifth birthday because of diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines. If more people knew about the power of vaccines, and advocated for more money to be spent on them, millions of lives could be saved.

But how do you get someone like me, who knows nothing about vaccines, to understand this? Christoph Niemann reckons the best way is with a big, green, animated bird.

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Yep - that’s a mother and baby bird running away from a horrible preventable disease. As part of an innovative arts project called ‘The Art Of Saving A Life’, Christoph decided to make vaccines, and the way they’re delivered, way more exciting.

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

So that the ingredients remain effective, the temperature of a vaccine must be kept at a few degrees above freezing at all times - even when it’s being delivered to a remote place in a hot country. This is known as a ‘cold chain’. Using animation and this adorable green bird, Christoph brings this incredible story to life in the cutest way I’ve seen!

Preventable diseases still pose a grave threat

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Vaccines can offer great protection

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Ensuring kids can grow up safe

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

...from many of the world’s most notorious diseases

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

But, it’s still a huge challenge to get the vaccines to many of the people who need them, especially in the poorest countries

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Vaccines are sensitive to heat. This can quickly render them useless.

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Proper cooling can protect the vaccines

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

But kids don’t always live in places with electricity and refrigerators. How to get the vaccine safely to them?

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

There is a linked system of cold storage devices, also called a ‘cold chain’

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

The vaccines can travel from major cities to the smallest, most remote community, and stay cool and safe the entire journey

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Improved solar power refrigerators

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Creating dried vaccines

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Better small mobile cooling units

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Reducing weight and bulk

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Creating combined vaccines, thus reducing the size and the number of doctor visits

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

A lot of work remains to be done

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

But the invention of cold chains has been a huge step in making sure children around the world can be vaccinated

Image credit: Christoph Niemann / The Art of Saving a Life

Christoph Niemann, whose work has also appeared on the cover of The New Yorker and TIME, says “the cold chain is a story about logistics and physics, but is mainly a story about personal ingenuity, enthusiasm and passion for helping others.”

As global citizens, we’ve been campaigning hard for governments to invest in Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and will be eagerly watching for the result tomorrow. To read more about Gavi and its incredible work, check out their website.