Globally immunization coverage for childhood vaccines is below the immunization target of achieving at least 90% coverage with the pentavalent vaccine. In Uganda, a recent survey shows 80% of districts had poor immunization program performance. However, there is significant variation in performance within and between districts. We hypothesized that geographic location of health facility may influence performance of their immunization programs. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine whether geographical location of health facility within a district is associated with performance of the immunization program in Hoima district, western Uganda.
We conducted a cross sectional study using a mixed methods approach. The study unit was a health center and we interviewed health workers in-charge of the facilities and reviewed their health facility records. We reviewed the Uganda Health Management Information System (HMIS) 105 reports of six months to obtain data on immunization program performance. Performance was categorized using World Health Organization’s Reach Every District (RED) criteria and classified as poor if a facility fell in category 3 or 4 and good if 1 or 2. We also conducted key informant interviews with immunization focal persons in the district. We examined the association between dependent and independent variables using Fisher’s exact test.
We collected data at 49 health facilities. Most of the health units (55.1%) had poor immunization program performance. Proximal location to the central district headquarters was significantly associated with poor immunization program performance (p<0.05). Attitudes of health workers in the more urban areas, differences in strategies for outreach site selection and community mobilization in the rural and urban areas were suggested as possible explanations.
Proximal location to the urban setting near district headquarters was strongly associated with poor immunization program performance. To be able to reach larger numbers of children for vaccination, interventions to improve performance should target health facilities in urban settings.