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Background: Africa has the lowest childhood vaccination coverage worldwide. If the full benefits of childhood vaccination programmes are to be enjoyed in sub-Saharan Africa, all countries need to improve on vaccine delivery to achieve and sustain high coverage. In this paper, we review trends in vaccination coverage, dropouts between vaccine doses and explored the country-specific predictors of complete vaccination in West Africa.  Methods: We utilized datasets from the Demographic and Health Surveys Program, available for Benin, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo, to obtain coverage for Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, polio, measles, and diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccines in children aged 12 – 23 months. We also calculated the DPT1-to-DPT3 and DPT1-to-measles dropouts, and proportions of the fully immunised child (FIC). Factors predictive of FIC were explored using Chi-squared tests and multivariable logistic regression.  Results: Overall, there was a trend of increasing vaccination coverage. The proportion of FIC varied significantly by country (range 24.1-81.4%, mean 49%). DPT1-to-DPT3 dropout was high (range 5.1% -33.9%, mean 16.3%). Similarly, DPT1-measles dropout exceeded 10% in all but four countries. Although no single risk factor was consistently associated with FIC across these countries, maternal education, delivery in a health facility, possessing a vaccine card and a recent post delivery visit to a health facility were the key predictors of complete vaccination.  Conclusions: The low numbers of fully immunised children and high dropout between vaccine doses highlights weaknesses and the need to strengthen the healthcare and routine immunization delivery systems in this region. Country-specific correlates of complete vaccination should be explored further to identify interventions required to increase vaccination coverage. Despite the promise of an increasing trend in vaccination coverage in West African countries, more effort is required to attain and maintain global vaccination coverage targets.

Original publication





Wellcome Open Research


F1000 Research Ltd

Publication Date





12 - 12