Determining the burden of missed opportunities for vaccination among children admitted in healthcare facilities in India: a cross-sectional study

BMJ Open. 2021 Mar 19;11(3):e046464. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-046464.


Objectives: Children accessing healthcare systems represent a vulnerable population with risk factors for poor health outcomes, including vaccine-preventable diseases. We aimed to quantify missed vaccination opportunities among hospitalised children in India, and identify vaccination barriers perceived by caregivers and healthcare providers.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Two public-sector tertiary-care hospitals in northern India, during November 2018 and March 2019.

Participants: We tracked 263 hospitalised children aged 1-59 months through hospital discharge, to assess vaccination status, and document catch-up vaccinations given during the hospital stay. We interviewed caregivers and healthcare providers to assess their perceptions on vaccination.

Outcomes: Proportion of hospitalised children considered under-vaccinated for their age; proportion of missed opportunities for vaccination among under-vaccinated children who were eligible for vaccination; and vaccine coverage by antigen.

Results: We found that 65.4% (172/263) of hospitalised children were under-vaccinated for their age when they presented to the hospital. Among under-vaccinated children, 61.0% were less than 4 months old, and 55.6% reported prior contact with a health facility for a sick visit. The proportion of under-vaccinated children in hospitals were higher compared with the general population as indicated by regional vaccination coverage data. Among under-vaccinated children who were tracked till discharge, 98.1% (158/161) remained incompletely vaccinated at discharge and were considered 'missed opportunities for vaccination'. Perceived vaccination contraindications that are not part of established contraindications included in national and international guidelines was the most common reason for healthcare providers not to vaccinate children during hospital stay. Among caregivers of under-vaccinated children, 90.1% reported being comfortable having their children vaccinated while they were sick, if recommended by the healthcare provider.

Conclusion: This pilot study confirmed that hospitalised sick children had substantial missed vaccination opportunities. Addressing these opportunities through concerted actions involving caregivers, healthcare providers and healthcare systems can improve overall vaccination coverage.

Keywords: paediatric infectious disease & immunisation; paediatrics; public health.