Poor nations ‘lie’ about child health

A Ugandan health worker immunises a child in Moroto district, 561 km (336 miles) northeast of capital Kampala October 1, 2008. US researchers on Thursday said childhood immunisations are growing at only about half the rate reported to global health agencies. PHOTO/ REUTERS

What you need to know:

  • Success rate for immunisation exaggerated, say researchers

CHICAGO

Countries receiving aid have been accused of exaggerating their success in immunising children.

US researchers on Thursday said childhood immunisations are growing at only about half the rate reported to global health agencies. However, the success rate is exaggerated to meet performance goals.

Researchers analysed independent surveys and found gaps between actual rates of immunisation and estimates reported to the World Health Organisation and the UN Children’s Fund.

The gap between country-reported and independently reported data was especially wide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Pakistan.

“An incentive to over-report progress, either intentionally or unintentionally, will always exist with performance-based payments,” said a statement from Dr Christopher Murray of the University of Washington in Seattle, whose study appears in the journal Lancet.

Dr Murray and colleagues studied the number of children receiving the three-dose diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT3) vaccines in countries receiving aid money from the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisations (Gavi), a Geneva-based body working to improve access to vaccines.

They looked at 193 countries between 1996 and 2006 and found that since 1999, when the alliance was launched, officially reported estimates show a nine percent jump in DPT3 vaccination coverage, while independent surveys showed only a 4.9 per cent increase in global coverage.

They also found the alliance’s immunisation services support programme that pays countries Sh1,560 ($20) for each additional child immunised leads to over-reporting in two-thirds of the countries studied.

They called for independent measurement of immunisation levels.

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