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Background. Even though immunisation coverage is tracked through the district health system in South Africa (SA), limited information is available regarding interventions linked to the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and the impact on the nutritional status of children <5 years of age.
Objectives. To describe coverage of immunisations, vitamin A supplementation and deworming among children <5 years old in an urban area of Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape Province, SA. A secondary objective was to investigate whether a history of missed immunisations, vitamin A supplementation or deworming was associated with wasting or stunting in children.
Methods. A descriptive study was conducted between September 2015 and February 2016, where cross-sectional anthropometrical data were collected from 1 513 children in 32 pre-schools, together with a retrospective analysis of the participants’ Road-to-Health/clinic cards to collect data on immunisation, vitamin A and deworming. Participants were categorised into 3-month age intervals to facilitate data analysis. Ethical approval was obtained from the Nelson Mandela University Research Ethics Committee (Human).
Results. Data of 1 496 children were included in the analysis. The prevalence of underweight was 2.5% (n=37), while 11.2% (n=167) were stunted and 1.1% (n=16) were wasted. There were associations between age category and delayed vitamin A supplementation (χ2=32.105; df=19; n=836; p=0.03) and deworming (χ2= 45.257; df=17; n=558; p<0.001), but there was no association between delayed vaccinations and age category. There were no significant differences in anthropometrical indicators for children with delayed vitamin A supplementation, deworming and vaccinations compared with children in this sample who were up to date regarding the relevant indicators. However, weight-for-age, height-for-age and weight-for-height z-scores and stunting risk were associated with low birthweight (LBW) (odds ratio (OR) 4.658; p<0.001).
Conclusion. Coverage of vitamin A supplementation and deworming but not immunisations was poorer among children in older age categories. A history of delayed vitamin A, deworming and vaccinations was not associated with the anthropometrical status of children. Children with LBW should be considered for more rigorous follow-up, as they are at higher risk of stunting.