Who is protected? Determinants of hepatitis B infant vaccination completion among a prospective cohort of migrant workers in Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gilder ME., Pateekhum C., Hashmi A., Aramrat C., Aung KK., Miket W., Chu CS., Win D., Bierhoff M., Wiwattanacharoen W., Jiraporncharoen W., Angkurawaranon C., McGready R.
BackgroundHepatitis B causes significant disease and death globally, despite the availability of effective vaccination. Migration likewise affects hundreds of millions of people annually, many of whom are women and children, and increases risks for poor vaccine completion and mother to child transmission of hepatitis B. In the neighbouring countries of Thailand and Myanmar, vaccine campaigns have made progress but little is known about the reach of these programs into migrant worker communities from Myanmar living in Thailand.MethodsA cohort of 253 postpartum women (53 urban migrants in Chiang Mai and 200 rural migrants in Tak Province) were surveyed about their Hepatitis B knowledge and willingness to vaccinate their children between September 10, 2019 and March 30, 2019. They were subsequently followed to determine vaccine completion. When records of vaccination were unavailable at the birth facility, or visits were late, families were contacted and interviewed about vaccination elsewhere, and reasons for late or missed vaccines.ResultsThough women in Tak province displayed better knowledge of Hepatitis B and equal intention to vaccinate, they were 14 times less likely to complete Hepatitis B vaccination for their children compared to migrants in Chiang Mai. Tak women were largely undocumented, had private (non-profit) insurance and had more transient residence. In Chiang Mai migrant women were mostly documented and had full access to the Thai national health services. Though minor individual and facility-level differences may have contributed, the major driver of the disparity seems to be the place of migrants within local socio-political-economic systems. The COVID-19 pandemic further disproportionately affected Tak province migrants who faced severe travel restrictions hampering vaccination. Sixty percent of families who were lost to vaccine follow-up in Tak province could not be contacted by phone or home visit. Chiang Mai migrants, with 86.8% vaccine completion, nearly reached the target of 90%.ConclusionsAchievement of high levels of hepatitis B vaccination in migrant communities is important and feasible, and requires inclusive policies that integrate migrants into national health and social services. This is more urgent than ever during the COVID-19 era.