Background: Routine childhood vaccination coverage rates fell in many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impact of inequity on coverage is unknown.
Methods: We synthesised evidence on inequities in routine childhood vaccination coverage (PROSPERO, CRD 42021257431). Studies reporting empirical data on routine vaccination coverage in children 0-18 years old during the COVID-19 pandemic by equity stratifiers were systematically reviewed. Nine electronic databases were searched between 1 January 2020 and 18 January 2022. The risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Tool for Cohort Studies. Overall, 91 of 1453 studies were selected for full paper review, and thirteen met the inclusion criteria.
Results: The narrative synthesis found moderate evidence for inequity in reducing the vaccination coverage of children during COVID-19 lockdowns and moderately strong evidence for an increase in inequity compared with pre-pandemic months (before March 2020). Two studies reported higher rates of inequity among children aged less than one year, and one showed higher inequity rates in middle- compared with high-income countries.
Conclusions: Evidence from a limited number of studies shows the effect of the pandemic on vaccine coverage inequity. Research from more countries is required to assess the global effect on inequity in coverage.
Keywords: COVID-19; inequity; routine childhood vaccination coverage; systematic review.