Immunisation as a Vital Strategy

Immunisation is a vital strategy for improving child survival and flourishing. Yet, almost 40 years after the introduction of the World Health Organization’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), one in five children worldwide still does not have access to basic vaccines. The question of improving equity in receipt of vaccination is now a matter of key policy concern in the global arena. In May 2012, the World Health Assembly approved the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) to ensure that the full benefits of vaccines are extended to all people, regardless of where they are born, who they are, or where they live.

Among all countries, India has the highest absolute number of unvaccinated children and relatively poor system performance. According to the latest national survey data, only 61% of India’s children 12-23 months were fully immunized, 13% dropped out between the first and third doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine, and 7.6% received no vaccinations at all. India has reduced rates of total system failure (no vaccinations) over time, but rates of full immunisation remain virtually unchanged.

Our research aims to develop and test a population health intervention to improve vaccination outcomes for children from underserved communities in India. The intervention is based on improving families’ knowledge and understanding and shaping community norms to support parents’ ability to act as effective agents for the health of their children. Our team is a partnership between Canadian researchers and two remarkable Indian NGOs, Pratham Education Foundation’s and ASER Centre. Our work has been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.

I’ve just returned from three weeks with our field teams as we prepare to launch the intervention pilot in January. The strength of our work lies in their enthusiasm, kindness, and closeness to the communities we wish to serve. They work with their hearts, and I return richer from each trip.


February 13, 2014


Mira Johri