Monitoring vaccination coverage: Defining the role of surveys

Vaccine. 2016 Jul 29;34(35):4103-4109. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.06.053. Epub 2016 Jun 24.


Vaccination coverage is a widely used indicator of programme performance, measured by registries, routine administrative reports or household surveys. Because the population denominator and the reported number of vaccinations used in administrative estimates are often inaccurate, survey data are often considered to be more reliable. Many countries obtain survey data on vaccination coverage every 3-5years from large-scale multi-purpose survey programs. Additional surveys may be needed to evaluate coverage in Supplemental Immunization Activities such as measles or polio campaigns, or after major changes have occurred in the vaccination programme or its context. When a coverage survey is undertaken, rigorous statistical principles and field protocols should be followed to avoid selection bias and information bias. This requires substantial time, expertise and resources hence the role of vaccination coverage surveys in programme monitoring needs to be carefully defined. At times, programmatic monitoring may be more appropriate and provides data to guide program improvement. Practical field methods such as health facility-based assessments can evaluate multiple aspects of service provision, costs, coverage (among clinic attendees) and data quality. Similarly, purposeful sampling or censuses of specific populations can help local health workers evaluate their own performance and understand community attitudes, without trying to claim that the results are representative of the entire population. Administrative reports enable programme managers to do real-time monitoring, investigate potential problems and take timely remedial action, thus improvement of administrative estimates is of high priority. Most importantly, investment in collecting data needs to be complemented by investment in acting on results to improve performance.

Keywords: Coverage; Health facility surveys; Program monitoring; Surveys; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Care Surveys / standards*
  • Humans
  • Immunization Programs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Research Design
  • Selection Bias
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*