Has COVID-19 Pandemic Affected Routine Immunization Activities? Secondary Data Analysis, Sierra Leone, 2021

  • Anti-microbial resistance
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Background: The Government of Sierra Leone has prioritized COVID-19 response for the last 23 months. Post-Ebola recovery activities boosted the expanded program on immunization (EPI) services. COVID-19 may have affected the coverage of essential immunization services in Sierra Leone. We analyzed the national routine immunization (RI) data to assess the effect of the COVID-19 epidemic on routine immunization services in Sierra Leone.
Methods: We conducted a secondary data analysis of national RI data. We extracted the data from the District Health Information System (DHIS-2) for the period 2018–2021. We computed vaccination coverages for Penta1, Penta3, Measles Rubella1 (MR1), and Measles Rubella2 (MR2). We also computed the dropout rates (DOR) between Penta1 and Penta3 and MR1 and MR2 coverage of ≥90% was considered as meeting the national target and a dropout rate (DOR) of <10% for antigens was considered as meeting program targets.
Results: From 2018–2019, the national coverages of Penta1 and Penta3 increased from 93.9% to 96.2%, and from 90.6% to 96.2% ,respectively. From 2020–2021, Penta1 and Penta3 national coverages decreased from 93.3% to 75.5% and from 91.3% to 74. 4%, respectively. The country achieved MR1 coverage target only in 2019 with 93.8% but failed to achieve the MR2 target coverage for all the years under review. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sierra Leone, 10 of the 16 districts had consistently achieved their Penta3 coverages but only 4 districts achieved their target since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Conclusions: COVID-19 had a negative impact on EPI services in Sierra Leone. We observed a decrease in coverage for all the antigens assessed from 2019 to 2021. The EPI program and its partners should re-strategize to improve the coverage of key.

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