Background: Immunization coverage rates in Nigeria have remained very poor, in spite of numerous programs and strategies, specifically designed to improve coverage. This study was to assess the possible effects of greater community participation on immunization coverage, by comparing the immunization coverage in a rural community with a functional community health committee, with an urban community, with no distinct community structure.
Materials and methods: The study was carried out in Ondewari, a rural, riverine community, in Bayelsa State; and Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, south-south Nigeria; using a cross-sectional, comparative study design. The data were collected using a structured interviewer-administered questionnaire, administered on female head of households in both communities, with under-five children; and used to collect information on the socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents, the immunization status of children in the household below the age of 2 years, and reasons for none and incomplete immunization.
Results: A total of 288 respondents were studied in the rural community, while 270 respondents were studied in the urban center. The respondents in the urban center were significantly younger (P<0.01), better educated (P<0.001), and had fewer number of children (P<0.01). The immunization status of children in the rural community was significantly better than those in the urban community (P<0.000). Only 11.46% of the children in the rural community were not immunized, compared to 47.04% in the urban community. However, the dropout rate in the rural community was much higher; with a DPT dropout rate of 77.34%, compared to 12.39% in the urban community. Most of the reasons given in the urban community for the incomplete immunization were linked lack of motivation, and include relocation (11.34%) and the adverse rumor about childhood immunization (17.23%), while the reasons in the rural community were mostly health facility related, and included the absence of the vaccinator (20.46%) and nonavailability of vaccines (26.64%).
Conclusion: The immunization coverage in the rural community was surprisingly better than that of the urban community, which can be attributed to better mobilization and participation in the delivery of immunization services.
Keywords: Childhood immunization coverage rate; community participation; rural; south-south Nigeria; urban.