Vaccination and All Cause Child Mortality 1985-2011: Global Evidence from the Demographic and Health Surveys

Mark E. McGovern, David Canning

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Based on models with calibrated parameters for infection, case fatality rates, and vaccine efficacy, basic childhood vaccinations have been estimated to be highly cost effective. We estimate the association of vaccination with mortality directly from survey data. Using 149 cross-sectional Demographic and Health Surveys, we determine the relationship between vaccination coverage and under five mortality at the survey cluster level. Our data include approximately one million children in 68,490 clusters in 62 countries. We consider the childhood measles, Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), Diphtheria-Pertussis-Tetanus (DPT), Polio, and maternal tetanus vaccinations. Using modified Poisson regression to estimate the relative risk of child mortality in each cluster, we also adjust for selection bias caused by the vaccination status of dead children not being reported. Childhood vaccination, and in particular measles and tetanus vaccination, is associated with substantial reductions in childhood mortality. We estimate that children in clusters with complete vaccination coverage have relative risk of mortality 0.73 (95% Confidence Interval: 0.68, 0.77) that of children in a cluster with no vaccination. While widely used, basic vaccines still have coverage rates well below 100% in many countries, and our results emphasize the effectiveness of increasing their coverage rates in order to reduce child mortality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)791-798
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number9
Early online date08 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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