Maternal leave policies and vaccination coverage: a global analysis

Soc Sci Med. 2012 Jan;74(2):120-4. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.10.013. Epub 2011 Nov 29.


Childhood vaccination is a proven and cost-effective way to reduce childhood mortality; however, participation in vaccination programs is not universal even where programs are free or low cost. Studies in diverse countries have reported work conflicts as limiting parents' ability to vaccinate their children. Using policy data for 185 UN member countries, we explore the hypothesis that an increased opportunity for parents to bring children to vaccination sites will translate into higher childhood vaccination rates. To do so, we use OLS regression to examine the relationship between the duration of adequately paid maternal leave and the uptake of vaccines. We find that a higher number of full-time equivalent weeks of paid maternal leave is associated with higher childhood vaccination rates, even after controlling for GDP per capita, health care expenditures, and social factors. Further research is needed to assess whether this association is upheld in longitudinal and intervention studies, as well as whether other forms of leave such as paid leave to care for the health of family members is effective at increasing the ability of parents to bring children for needed preventive care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • BCG Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Measles Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • Parental Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poliovirus Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Time Factors
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*


  • BCG Vaccine
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine
  • Measles Vaccine
  • Poliovirus Vaccines