Background: Due to intensified measles immunization efforts, measles mortality has decreased substantially worldwide, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated a 92% decrease in measles-related deaths in the WHO AFRO region for the period 2000-2008. Recently, the AFRO region established a measles pre-elimination goal and experts have suggested engaging in a measles eradication campaign at the global level. However, recent large-scale outbreaks in many Sub-Saharan African countries present a challenge to measles control efforts. This paper examines measles immunization and the impact of measles supplemental immunization activities (SIAs) on routine immunization coverage in South Africa (SA).
Methods: We reported on immunization coverage trends in SA for the period 2001-2010 at the province and district levels. The data included routine immunization for 1st and 2nd doses of measles vaccine (MCV1, MCV2), SIAs, 1st dose of Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccine, 1st and 3rd doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV1, OPV3), 3rd dose of Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis-Haemophilus-influenzae-B vaccine (DTP-Hib3), and the number of under-one-year-olds having completed a primary course of immunization (Imm1). A regression model looked at the SIA impact on routine coverage.
Results: Over the past decade, MCV1 and MCV2 coverage have increased nationally from 68% and 57% in 2001 to 95% and 83% in 2010, respectively. SIA coverage has remained at high levels, around 90%, over the same period. Substantial heterogeneity in MCV1 and MCV2 coverage is present across SA districts, with differences in coverage of 56% (MCV1) and 51% (MCV2) in 2010. In any given year, occurrence of SIAs was associated with a decrease in routine immunization coverage of MCV1, MCV2, OPV1, OPV3, DTP-Hib3, and Imm1, at the district level.
Conclusions: The heterogeneity in measles vaccination coverage across SA districts challenges the goal of measles elimination in SA and SSA. The reduction in routine immunization coverage associated with the occurrence of SIAs raises the legitimate concern that SIAs may negatively impact health systems' functioning.
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