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Open Access Research article

Schools as potential vaccination venue for vaccines outside regular EPI schedule: results from a school census in Pakistan

Sajid Bashir Soofi1, Inam-ul Haq1, M Imran Khan2, Muhammad Bilal Siddiqui1, Mushtaq Mirani1, Rehman Tahir1, Imtiaz Hussain1, Mahesh K Puri2, Zamir Hussain Suhag1, Asif R Khowaja1, Abdul Razzaq Lasi1, John D Clemens2, Michael Favorov2, R Leon Ochiai2 and Zulfiqar A Bhutta1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Translational Research Division, International Vaccine Institute, Seoul, Republic of Korea

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:6  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-6

Published: 6 January 2012

Abstract

Background

Vaccines are the most effective public health intervention. Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) provides routine vaccination in developing countries. However, vaccines that cannot be given in EPI schedule such as typhoid fever vaccine need alternative venues. In areas where school enrolment is high, schools provide a cost effective opportunity for vaccination. Prior to start of a school-based typhoid vaccination program, interviews were conducted with staff of educational institutions in two townships of Karachi, Pakistan to collect baseline information about the school system and to plan a typhoid vaccination program. Data collection teams administered a structured questionnaire to all schools in the two townships. The administrative staff was requested information on school fee, class enrolment, past history of involvement and willingness of parents to participate in a vaccination campaign.

Results

A total of 304,836 students were enrolled in 1,096 public, private, and religious schools (Madrasahs) of the two towns. Five percent of schools refused to participate in the school census. Twenty-five percent of schools had a total enrolment of less than 100 students whereas 3% had more than 1,000 students. Health education programs were available in less than 8% of public schools, 17% of private schools, and 14% of Madrasahs. One-quarter of public schools, 41% of private schools, and 43% of Madrasahs had previously participated in a school-based vaccination campaign. The most common vaccination campaign in which schools participated was Polio eradication program. Cost of the vaccine, side effects, and parents' lack of information were highlighted as important limiting factors by school administration for school-based immunization programs. Permission from parents, appropriateness of vaccine-related information, and involvement of teachers were considered as important factors to improve participation.

Conclusions

Health education programs are not part of the regular school curriculum in developing countries including Pakistan. Many schools in the targeted townships participated in immunization activities but they were not carried out regularly. In the wake of low immunization coverage in Pakistan, schools can be used as a potential venue not only for non-EPI vaccines, but for a catch up vaccination of routine vaccines.

Keywords:
Vaccine; typhoid fever; developing country; infectious disease; health education