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Vaccination Week in the Americas, 2011: an opportunity to assess the routine vaccination program in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
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  • Description:
    Background

    Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) is an annual initiative in countries and territories of the Americas every April to highlight the work of national expanded programs on immunization (EPI) and increase access to vaccination services for high-risk population groups. In 2011, as part of VWA, Venezuela targeted children aged less than 6 years in 25 priority border municipalities using social mobilization to increase institution-based vaccination. Implementation of social communication activities was decentralized to the local level. We conducted a survey in one border municipality of Venezuela to evaluate the outcome of VWA 2011 and provide a snapshot of the overall performance of the routine EPI at that level.

    Methods

    We conducted a coverage survey, using stratified cluster sampling, in the Venezuelan municipality of Bolivar (bordering Colombia) in August 2011. We collected information for children aged <6 years through caregiver interviews and transcription of vaccination card data. We estimated each child’s eligibility to receive a specific vaccine dose during VWA 2011 and whether or not they were actually vaccinated during VWA activities. We also estimated baseline vaccination coverage, timeliness and 95% confidence intervals (CI), and used chi-square tests to compare coverage across age cohorts, taking into account the sampling design.

    Results

    We surveyed 839 children from 698 households; 93% of children had a vaccination card. Among households surveyed, 216 (31%) caregivers reported having heard about a vaccination activity during April or May 2011. Of the 528 children eligible to receive a vaccine during VWA, 24% received at least one dose, while 13% received all doses due. Overall, baseline coverage with routine vaccines, as measured by the survey, was >85%, with a few exceptions.

    Conclusion

    Low levels of VWA awareness among caregivers probably contributed to the limited vaccination of eligible children during the VWA activities in Bolivar in 2011. However, vaccine coverage for most EPI vaccines was high. Additionally, high vaccination card availability and high participation in VWA among those caregivers aware of it in 2011 suggest public trust in the EPI program in the municipality. Health authorities have used survey findings to inform changes to the routine EPI and better VWA implementation in subsequent years.

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