Peer-Reviewed Article | In-depth reasons for the high proportion of zero-dose children in underserved populations of Ethiopia: Results from a qualitative study
Increasing attention is being given to reach children who fail to receive routine vaccinations, commonly designated as zero-dose children. A comprehensive understanding of the supply- and demand-side barriers is essential to inform zero-dose strategies in high-burden countries and achieve global immunization goals. This qualitative study aimed to identify the barriers for reaching zero-dose and under-immunized children and what and explore gender affects access to vaccination services for children in Ethiopia. Data was collected between March-June 2022 using key informant interviews and focus group discussions with participants in underserved settings. The high proportion of zero-dose children was correlated with inadequate information being provided by health workers, irregularities in service provision, suboptimal staff motivation, high staff turnover, closure and inaccessibility of health facilities, lack of functional health posts, service provision limited to selected days or hours, and gender norms viewing females as responsible for childcare. Demand-side barriers included religious beliefs, cultural norms, fear of vaccine side effects, and lack of awareness and sustained interventions. Recommendations to increase vaccination coverage include strengthening health systems such as services integration, human resources capacity building, increasing incentives for health staff, integrating vaccination services, bolstering the EPI budget especially from the government side, and supporting reliable outreach and static immunization services. Additionally, immunization policy should be revised to include gender considerations including male engagement strategies to improve uptake of immunization services.