Validity of vaccination cards and parental recall to estimate vaccination coverage: a systematic review of the literature

Vaccine. 2013 Mar 15;31(12):1560-8. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2012.10.089. Epub 2012 Nov 26.


Immunization programs frequently rely on household vaccination cards, parental recall, or both to calculate vaccination coverage. This information is used at both the global and national level for planning and allocating performance-based funds. However, the validity of household-derived coverage sources has not yet been widely assessed or discussed. To advance knowledge on the validity of different sources of immunization coverage, we undertook a global review of literature. We assessed concordance, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value, and coverage percentage point difference when subtracting household vaccination source from a medical provider source. Median coverage difference per paper ranged from -61 to +1 percentage points between card versus provider sources and -58 to +45 percentage points between recall versus provider source. When card and recall sources were combined, median coverage difference ranged from -40 to +56 percentage points. Overall, concordance, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value showed poor agreement, providing evidence that household vaccination information may not be reliable, and should be interpreted with care. While only 5 papers (11%) included in this review were from low-middle income countries, low-middle income countries often rely more heavily on household vaccination information for decision making. Recommended actions include strengthening quality of child-level data and increasing investments to improve vaccination card availability and card marking. There is also an urgent need for additional validation studies of vaccine coverage in low and middle income countries.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / methods
  • Immunization Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medical Records*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Parents*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*