Charting mandatory childhood vaccination policies worldwide.
Vanderslott S., Marks T.
Mandatory childhood vaccination is becoming an increasingly important policy intervention for governments trying to address low vaccination rates. Mandates require vaccination for a certain purpose, most commonly related to school entry for children. However, the discussion surrounding the extent and impact of mandatory vaccination programmes for babies and children have largely been limited to high-income countries. While many recent publications discuss the issue, they have not been inclusive of low- and middle-income countries. This paper thus presents a comprehensive and updatable database of mandatory childhood vaccination policies worldwide, covering 149 countries. The list indicates whether a country has a mandatory vaccination policy and the strictness of the mandate on a scale ranging across three levels of mandatory, mandatory for school entry or recommended. It draws on extensive desk-based research analysing a variety of sources, supplemented by consultations with experts from various health authorities. The paper provides an overview of the state of mandatory childhood vaccination across different World Health Organization (WHO) regions and with country case studies, setting out the general trends and issues, and engages with a discussion about why, how, and where mandatory vaccination is put in place. Our findings show in-country variation in vaccination policy and a variation between vaccination in policy compared to in practice. We observe, particularly for high-income countries, that the occurrence of recent outbreaks is a major factor for the introduction of mandatory vaccination. Also, many low- and middle- income countries have resorted to mandatory vaccination policies because of a lack of other policy options yet still have lower than targeted vaccination rates due to problems with vaccine supply, delivery, and access. Offering comparisons between countries will provide a useful tool for government decision-makers considering the merits of mandatory vaccination.