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Did the call for boycott by the Catholic bishops affect the polio vaccination coverage in Kenya in 2015? A cross-sectional study

Ian Njeru
Yusuf Ajack
Charles Muitherero
Dickens Onyango
Johnny Musyoka
Iheoma Onuekusi
Jackson Kioko
Nicholas Muraguri
Robert Davis


Introduction: Polio eradication is now feasible after removal of Nigeria from the list of endemic countries and global reduction of cases of wild polio virus in 2015 by more than 80%. However, all countries must remain focused to achieve eradication. In August 2015, the Catholic bishops in Kenya called for boycott of a polio vaccination campaign citing safety concerns with the polio vaccine. We conducted a survey to establish if the coverage was affected by the boycott. Methods: A cross sectional survey was conducted in all the 32 counties that participated in the campaign. A total of 90,157 children and 37,732 parents/guardians were sampled to determine the vaccination coverage and reasons for missed vaccination. Results: The national vaccination coverage was 93% compared to 94% in the November 2014 campaign. The proportion of parents/guardians that belonged to Catholic Church was 31% compared to 7% of the children who were missed. Reasons for missed vaccination included house not being visited (44%), children not being at home at time of visit (38%), refusal by parents (12%), children being asleep (1%), and various other reasons (5%). Compared to the November 2014 campaign, the proportion of children who were not vaccinated due to parent’s refusal significantly increased from 6% to 12% in August 2015. Conclusion: The call for boycott did not affect the campaign significantly. However, if the call for boycott is repeated in future it could have some significant negative implication to polio eradication. It is therefore important to ensure that any vaccine safety issues are addressed accordingly.

Pan African Medical Journal 2016; 24

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eISSN: 1937-8688