Reasons for defaulting from childhood immunization program: a qualitative study from Hadiya zone, Southern Ethiopia

BMC Public Health. 2016 Dec 9;16(1):1240. doi: 10.1186/s12889-016-3904-1.


Background: Reduction of mortality and morbidity from vaccine-preventable diseases in developing countries involves successfully implementing strategies that ensure high coverage and minimize drop-outs and missed opportunities. Achieving maximum coverage, however, has been a challenge due to many reasons, including high rates of defaulters from the program. The objective of this study was to explore the reasons behind defaulting from the immunization program.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted in two districts of Hadiya zone, Southern Ethiopia between November 2014 and April 2015. A total of twenty-six in-depth interviews were held with mothers of defaulted children aged 6-11months old and key informants from the communities, health centers, and health offices. Observations and review of relevant documents were also conducted. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data.

Results: In this study, the main reason for defaulting from the immunization was inadequate counseling of mothers that led to a lack of information about vaccination schedules and service arrangements, including in unusual circumstances such as after missed appointment, loss of vaccination card and when the health workers failed to make home visits. Provider-client relationships are poor with mothers reporting fear of mistreatment and lack of cooperation from service providers. Contrary to what health workers and managers believe, mothers were knowledgeable about the benefits of vaccination. The high workload on mothers compounded by the lack of support from male partners was also found to contribute to the problem. Health system factors that contributed to the problem were poorly arranged and coordinated immunization services, vaccine and supplies stock outs, and lack of viable defaulter tracking systems in the health facilities.

Conclusions: The main reasons for defaulting from the immunization program are poor counseling of mothers, unsupportive provider-client relationships, poor immunization service arrangements, and lack of systems for tracking defaulters. Efforts to reduce defaulter rates from the immunization program need to focus on improving counseling of mothers and strengthening the health systems, especially with regards to service arrangements and tracking of defaulters.

Keywords: Childhood immunization; Defaulter; Ethiopia; Health systems; Tracking.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Developing Countries*
  • Ethiopia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization / psychology*
  • Immunization Programs*
  • Immunization Schedule
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research