Early Impact of SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic on Immunization Services in Nigeria

Vaccines (Basel). 2022 Jul 11;10(7):1107. doi: 10.3390/vaccines10071107.


Background: By 11 March 2022, there were 450,229,635 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and 6,019,085 deaths globally, with Nigeria reporting 254,637 cases and 3142 deaths. One of the essential healthcare services that have been impacted by the pandemic is routine childhood immunization. According to the 2018 National Demographic and Health Survey, only 31% of children aged 12-23 months were fully vaccinated in Nigeria, and 19% of eligible children in the country had not received any vaccination. A further decline in coverage due to the pandemic can significantly increase the risk of vaccine-preventable-disease outbreaks among children in Nigeria. To mitigate such an occurrence, it is imperative to urgently identify how the pandemic and the response strategies have affected vaccination services, hence, the goal of the study.

Methods: The research method was qualitative, including in-depth interviews of healthcare workers and focus group discussions (FGDs) with caregivers of children aged 0-23 months. We selected one state from each of the three zones of Nigeria: northern, central, and southern. Within each state, 10 local government areas and 20 healthcare facilities were purposively selected. In each facility, 10 healthcare workers were invited for interviews. Overall, 517 healthcare workers were interviewed. For the focus group discussion, 30 communities were selected. Within each selected community, six consenting caregivers were included. Overall, 180 caregivers participated. The data were analyzed using thematic inductive content analysis.

Results: Three significant impacts that were observed are: difficulties in accessibility to immunization services, declining immunization demand and uptake among caregivers due to varying factors, and erosion of vaccine confidence among both caregivers and healthcare workers. Movement restriction and lockdown had numerous major impacts, such as decreased general healthcare service delivery, increased transportation costs, fewer engagements that promote vaccine uptake, and cessation of mobile vaccination campaigns that target hard-to-reach communities. Moreover, misinformation, conspiracy beliefs about the pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines, and risk perception negatively influenced general vaccine confidence.

Conclusion: The results of this early impact study show that immunization was directly affected by the pandemic and provide insights into areas where interventions are needed for recovery.

Keywords: COVID 19; Nigeria; SARS-CoV-2; access; early impact; immunization services; influence; pandemic; uptake; vaccine confidence.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by an unconditional educational grant from Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) (Ref. No. 60695) through Agence de Médecine Préventive (AMP) Afrique. However, they had no influence on the study design, data collection or analysis, the decision to publish, or the preparation of the manuscript.