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New immunization data reveals state of the field and the important role of data in vaccination

By Celina Kareiva, Communications Associate, BID Initiative

Aug 24, 2018

Posted in , ,

Photo credit: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/Riccardo Gangale. Women and children wait for vaccinations at the Ngarenaro Health Center in Arusha, Tanzania.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) released new immunization data from 2017 that reveals global progress toward immunization targets, and where countries and stakeholders are still falling short. Nine in 10 infants were vaccinated last year, or 123 million babies worldwide. But since 2015, the percentage of children around the world who have received the full three-dose course of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3), has leveled out at 85 percent. DTP3 is a key indicator of immunization program performance.

In addition to stagnating DTP3 coverage, several life-saving vaccines have particularly low coverage rates. Rotavirus has global coverage rates of just 28 percent; pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) sits at 44 percent. And yet both vaccines have the potential to dramatically reduce under five deaths.

The BID Initiative knows well the importance of immunization and accessible health data. Data quality and use interventions, such as those introduced by BID, can help to reach the “fifth child,” those hardest to reach because of poverty, their rural location, and other barriers. Using data to make evidence-based decisions can help countries develop more targeted vaccination strategies that prioritize underperforming regions and facilities and shed light on geographic disparities. Across Africa, for instance, DTP3 coverage sits at just 72 percent, well below the global target of 90 percent.

The report also points out immunization’s role in achieving universal health coverage and primary health care. Immunization offers a critical point of contact with the health system, and early contact can help ensure children fulfill their vaccination requirements. Under the BID Initiative, children registered into electronic immunization registries (EIRs) are assigned unique identifiers that ensure, for example, if a child visits a neighboring facility, their full vaccine record will follow them, and if they miss a vaccine the EIR will remind health workers that they are overdue.

In addition to rolling out data quality and use interventions under the BID Initiative, Tanzania and Zambia have achieved important immunization milestones in the past year. Tanzania became the seventh African country to introduce the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine into its routine immunization program. In Zambia, despite a devastating cholera outbreak, the country executed a vaccination campaign aimed at reaching one million. And in both countries more than half a million children have been entered in electronic immunization registries.

This year’s global immunization coverage data is a reminder that vaccines are fundamental to health, and countries need to continue strengthening their health information systems that facilitate accessible, quality, and actionable data. For more on this year’s coverage data, check out the WHO’s web story.

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