Background: In 2010, more than six million children in sub-Saharan Africa did not receive the full series of three doses of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine by one year of age. An evidence-based approach to addressing this burden of un-immunised children requires accurate knowledge of the underlying factors. We therefore developed and tested a model of childhood immunisation that includes individual, community and country-level characteristics.
Method and findings: We conducted multilevel logistic regression analysis of Demographic and Health Survey data for 27,094 children aged 12-23 months, nested within 8,546 communities from 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the intra-country and intra-community correlation coefficient implied by the estimated intercept component variance, 21% and 32% of the variance in unimmunised children were attributable to country- and community-level factors respectively. Children born to mothers (OR 1.35, 95%CI 1.18 to 1.53) and fathers (OR 1.13, 95%CI 1.12 to 1.40) with no formal education were more likely to be unimmunised than those born to parents with secondary or higher education. Children from the poorest households were 36% more likely to be unimmunised than counterparts from the richest households. Maternal access to media significantly reduced the odds of children being unimmunised (OR 0.94, 95%CI 0.94 to 0.99). Mothers with health seeking behaviours were less likely to have unimmunised children (OR 0.56, 95%CI 0.54 to 0.58). However, children from urban areas (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.23), communities with high illiteracy rates (OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.23), and countries with high fertility rates (OR 4.43, 95% CI 1.04 to 18.92) were more likely to be unimmunised.
Conclusion: We found that individual and contextual factors were associated with childhood immunisation, suggesting that public health programmes designed to improve coverage of childhood immunisation should address people, and the communities and societies in which they live.