Unvaccinated children in years of increasing coverage: how many and who are they? Evidence from 96 low- and middle-income countries

Trop Med Int Health. 2012 Jun;17(6):697-710. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2012.02989.x.


Objective: While childhood immunisation coverage levels have increased since the 70s, inequities in coverage between and within countries have been widely reported. Unvaccinated children remain undetected by routine monitoring systems and strikingly unreported. The objective of this study was to provide evidence on the magnitude of the problem and to describe predictors associated with non-vaccination.

Methods: Two hundred and forty-one nationally representative household surveys in 96 countries were analysed. Proportions and changes in time of 'unvaccinated' (children having not received a single dose of vaccine), 'partially vaccinated' and 'fully vaccinated' children were estimated. Predictors of non-vaccination were explored.

Results: The percentage of unvaccinated children was 9.9% across all surveys. 66 countries had more than one survey: 38 showed statistically significant reductions in the proportion of unvaccinated children between the first and last survey, 10 countries showed increases and the rest showed no significant changes. However, while 18 of the 38 countries also improved in terms of partially and fully vaccinated, in the other 20 the proportion of fully vaccinated decreased. The predictors more strongly associated with being unvaccinated were education of the caregiver, education of caregiver's partner, caregiver's tetanus toxoid (TT) status, wealth index and type of family member participation in decision-making when the child is ill. Multivariable logistic regression identified the TT status of the caregiver as the strongest predictors of unvaccinated children. Country-specific summaries were produced and sent to countries.

Conclusion: The number of unvaccinated children is not negligible and their proportion and the predictors of non-vaccination have to be drawn from specific surveys. Specific vaccine indicators cannot properly describe the performance of immunisation programmes in certain situations. National immunisation programmes and national and international immunisation stakeholders should also consider monitoring the proportion of unvaccinated children (i.e. those who have received no vaccines at all) and draw specific plans on the determinants of non-vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Communicable Disease Control / statistics & numerical data*
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Treatment Refusal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*