Integrating family planning and immunization services in Malawi was found to be feasible and beneficial

In this mixed-methods implementation study, routine immunization and family planning services were integrated across health facilities and community sites across two rural districts in Malawi, Dowa and Ntchisi. The total number of women accessing family planning services during the study period increased by 14% while DPT immunization rates for children remained consistent. In interviews, parents and providers found the integration of family planning and immunization services to be feasible and beneficial, indicating a win-win for both services.

Investments in polio eradication in Africa improved overall immunization systems and increased coverage of routine vaccinations

A systematic review of 8 African countries that had wild polio virus transmission and significant polio eradication activities found evidence that the huge investments made in polio have strengthened capacity in almost all aspects of the overall immunization systems, especially in the areas of microplanning, service delivery, capacity-building (especially supportive supervision and on-the-job training), and program management. This led to substantial increases in coverage of other routine vaccinations – BCG, DPT, measles – in all 8 countries over a 25-year period (1989-2014), including a more than a 3-fold increase in DPT3 coverage in 2 countries and a more than a 2-fold increase in 3 other countries.

Collapse of primary healthcare during humanitarian emergencies can lead to infectious disease outbreaks in neighboring areas

The humanitarian emergency in Venezuela, and resulting collapse of its primary health care infrastructure, has caused measles and diphtheria to reemerge — disproportionately affecting indigenous populations — and spread to neighboring countries. This sets the stage for the potential reemergence of polio. The re-establishment of measles as an endemic disease in Venezuela (with >5,500 confirmed cases) and its spread to neighboring countries threaten the measles-free status.

Poverty negatively affects the timing of vaccines given to children

In Tanzania, poverty was found to have a negative effect on receiving vaccines on time (at the recommended age). Children in the wealthiest quintile experienced 19% fewer delays for BCG vaccination, 23% fewer delays for the third dose of DTP vaccination, and 31% fewer delays for the first dose of measles-containing vaccine compared to children of the poorest quintile.

Location of health facilities drastially affects the immunization of children

Children in Tanzania living 5 km or greater distance from the nearest healthcare facility were less likely to be immunized than children living less than 5 km from facilities. Compared to children living close a health facility, children far from a health facility had almost three times the risk of missing out on BCG, 84% higher risk of missing the third dose of DTP, and 48% higher risk of missing the first dose of measles-containing vaccine. Of children who did receive BCG, those living more than 5 km from facilities were 26% more likely to received BCG vaccine late than children close to the facility.

Maternal education is a strong predictor of vaccine coverage

Researchers looking at vaccination coverage in 45 low- and middle-income countries found that maternal education is a strong predictor of vaccine coverage. Children of the least educated mothers are 55% less likely to have received measles containing vaccine and three doses of DTP vaccine than children of the most educated mothers.

Parental education can be one of the most significant drivers of vaccine coverage inequities

In an analysis of immunization coverage in 45 low- and lower-middle income Gavi-eligible countries, researchers found that overall, maternal and paternal education were two of the most significant drivers of coverage inequities in these countries. Pooling the data from all countries, the authors found that “children of the most educated mothers are 1.45 times more likely to have received DTP3 than children of the least educated mothers.” The same held true for measles vaccines with a 1.45-fold likelihood of vaccination in children of the most educated mothers.

Childhood vaccination provides an opportunity to deliver additional interventions

A recent review looks at evidence linking vaccinations in early infancy to childhood development services. BCG and DPT have the highest coverage of any vaccines worldwide and are typically administered within 6 weeks of birth. This timing offers the opportunity to deliver a range of early childhood development interventions such as newborn hearing screening, sickle cell screening, treatment and surveillance, maternal education around key newborn care issues such as jaundice, and tracking early signs of poor growth and nutrition.