Routine immunization coverage and immunization card retention in Pakistan: Results from a cross-sectional national survey

Imtiaz Hussain, Aga Khan University
Ahmad Khan, Aga Khan University
Dale A. Rhoda, Biostat Global Consulting, Worthington, OH
Imran Ahmed, Aga Khan University
Muhammad Umer, Aga Khan University
Uzair Ansari, Aga Khan University
Muhammad Akram Shah, Federal Directorate of Immunization, Pakistan
Soofia Yunus, Federal Directorate of Immunization, Pakistan
Jennifer Brustrom, Biostat Global Consulting, Worthington, OH
Robert Oelrichs, Independent Consultant, Brisbane, Australia; and
Sajid Bashir Soofi, Aga Khan University
Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta, Aga Khan University

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Background: Immunization is one of the most successful public health interventions available, saving millions of lives from death and disability each year. Therefore, improving immunization coverage is a high priority for the Government of Pakistan and essential to progress toward universal health coverage. This survey reports the national and provincial/regional coverage and determinants of fully, partially, and not-vaccinated children aged 12–23 months, antigen-wise coverage, percentage of home-based vaccination records (HBR) retention, and reasons for nonretention; dropout, timeliness, and prevalence of missed opportunities for simultaneous vaccination (MOSV).
Methods: The survey was a descriptive cross-sectional national household survey carried out across Pakistan. The survey included 110,790 children aged 12–23 months and their caregivers. A World Health Organization (WHO)—Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Survey questionnaire was adapted to collect information. Data were analyzed using the WHO Vaccination Coverage Quality Indicators (VCQI) software and Stata version 17.
Results: Nationally excluding Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB), the coverage of fully vaccinated children was 76.5%. The likelihood of being fully vaccinated was higher among children of educated parents who belonged to higher wealth quintiles and resided in any province/ region other than Balochistan. The main reasons for unimmunization were no faith in immunization, rumors about vaccines, and distance to the facility. About two-thirds (66.2%) of the children had their HBR available, and the main reasons for not having a card were never visiting a health facility and having no awareness about the importance of a card. Dropout was discernible for later doses of vaccines compared with earlier ones. Higher proportions of children received the last doses late by more than two months. Of the 218,002 vaccination visits documented on HBR in the provinces, MOSVs occurred in 17.6% of the visits.
Conclusion: The immunization coverage rates provide a direction to strategize the progress to improve the vaccination rates in Pakistan. The country needs to outline the immediate and long-term actions to combat vaccine preventable diseases, such as escalating integrated immunization campaigns and outreach activities, provision of mobility support, and deploying behavioral interventions as a cross-cutting strategy to improve awareness and reduce misconceptions.