Background: Australia has introduced a nationwide immunisation incentive scheme. This yet to be evaluated two-year program offers financial rewards to providers and parents to encourage childhood immunisations.
Objectives: To review the use of incentives in immunisation uptake, identify issues in developing an incentive program for childhood immunisation and examine the findings within the context of the Australian scheme.
Method: Medline was searched under 'immunization and financial incentive' and 'immunization and incentive' in English 1966 to 1998.
Results: The search identified six and 93 articles respectively, of which six examined the role of material incentives influencing coverage of immunisation. References and reviews identified a further three studies. Among these nine studies (two British, six American, one Nicaraguan), two reported the same intervention. Of the eight incentives examined, four referred to non-financial incentives such as food vouchers and four to monetary incentives for parents (1) or providers (3). Groups receiving the incentives were up to three times more likely to be immunised and had overall immunisation rates up to 17% higher than comparison groups.
Conclusions: Effective incentives require collaboration of key players, using a program appropriate to the characteristics of the population. Although varying in cost-effectiveness, both monetary and non-monetary incentives can improve childhood immunisation uptake. Evaluation of current programs including the Australian ones will assist future allocation of resources.