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Essential childhood immunization in 43 low- and middle-income countries: Analysis of spatial trends and socioeconomic inequalities in vaccine coverage.

PLoS Medicine 2023 January 18
BACKGROUND: Globally, access to life-saving vaccines has improved considerably in the past 5 decades. However, progress has started to slow down and even reverse in recent years. Understanding subnational heterogeneities in essential child immunization will be critical for closing the global vaccination gap.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: We use vaccination information for over 220,000 children across 1,366 administrative regions in 43 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) from the most recent Demographic and Health Surveys. We estimate essential immunization coverage at the national and subnational levels and quantify socioeconomic inequalities in such coverage using adjusted concentration indices. Within- and between-country variations are summarized via the Theil index. We use local indicator of spatial association (LISA) statistics to identify clusters of administrative regions with high or low values. Finally, we estimate the number of missed vaccinations among children aged 15 to 35 months across all 43 countries and the types of vaccines most often missed. We show that national-level vaccination rates can conceal wide subnational heterogeneities. Large gaps in child immunization are found across West and Central Africa and in South Asia, particularly in regions of Angola, Chad, Nigeria, Guinea, and Afghanistan, where less than 10% of children are fully immunized. Furthermore, children living in these countries consistently lack all 4 basic vaccines included in the WHO's recommended schedule for young children. Across most countries, children from poorer households are less likely to be fully immunized. The main limitations include subnational estimates based on large administrative divisions for some countries and different periods of survey data collection.

CONCLUSIONS: The identified heterogeneities in essential childhood immunization, especially given that some regions consistently are underserved for all basic vaccines, can be used to inform the design and implementation of localized intervention programs aimed at eliminating child suffering and deaths from existing and novel vaccine-preventable diseases.

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