Panel Paper: The Effect of a Vaccination Program On Child Growth: Evidence From India's Universal Immunization Program

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 11:15 AM
International C (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tobenna D Anekwe, US Dept. of Agriculture and Santosh Kumar, Univ. of Washington

Background: Childhood vaccination may protect nutritional status and lead to improved child growth in developing countries. This study estimates the effect of a childhood vaccination program on the growth of children under four years of age in India.

Methods:We estimated regression models to examine the effect of India’s Universal Immunization Program (UIP) vaccination program on odds of vaccination and children’s anthropometric outcomes. We also estimated models to test whether UIP’s effect was uniform across various subpopulations of India.

Results:UIP increased the average height-for-age of Indian children who were less than four years old in 1992-1993. The program appears to have had no effect on average weight-for-age, weight-for-height, or BMI-for-age, nor on average odds of vaccination. UIP also led to differential changes in child growth and odds of vaccination, based on differences in maternal education and whether or not the child's family was part of a scheduled caste.

Conclusions: We provide evidence that a childhood vaccination program led to improved child growth in a setting where most children are undernourished as measured by World Health Organization child growth standards. These findings suggest that childhood vaccination programs--in addition to being a major intervention for reducing child mortality--might be a tool for mitigating the problem of undernutrition in developing countries. A chief limitation of this study is its small control group, which may have led to insufficient statistical power to detect some effects of UIP.