Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the delivery of immunisation services globally. Many countries have postponed vaccination campaigns out of concern about infection risks to the staff delivering vaccination, the children being vaccinated, and their families. The World Health Organization recommends considering both the benefit of preventive campaigns and the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission when making decisions about campaigns during COVID-19 outbreaks, but there has been little quantification of the risks.

Methods: We modelled excess SARS-CoV-2 infection risk to vaccinators, vaccinees, and their caregivers resulting from vaccination campaigns delivered during a COVID-19 epidemic. Our model used population age structure and contact patterns from three exemplar countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Brazil). It combined an existing compartmental transmission model of an underlying COVID-19 epidemic with a Reed-Frost model of SARS-CoV-2 infection risk to vaccinators and vaccinees. We explored how excess risk depends on key parameters governing SARS-CoV-2 transmissibility, and aspects of campaign delivery such as campaign duration, number of vaccinations, and effectiveness of personal protective equipment (PPE) and symptomatic screening.

Results: Infection risks differ considerably depending on the circumstances in which vaccination campaigns are conducted. A campaign conducted at the peak of a SARS-CoV-2 epidemic with high prevalence and without special infection mitigation measures could increase absolute infection risk by 32 to 45% for vaccinators and 0.3 to 0.5% for vaccinees and caregivers. However, these risks could be reduced to 3.6 to 5.3% and 0.1 to 0.2% respectively by use of PPE that reduces transmission by 90% (as might be achieved with N95 respirators or high-quality surgical masks) and symptomatic screening.

Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2 infection risks to vaccinators, vaccinees, and caregivers during vaccination campaigns can be greatly reduced by adequate PPE, symptomatic screening, and appropriate campaign timing. Our results support the use of adequate risk mitigation measures for vaccination campaigns held during SARS-CoV-2 epidemics, rather than cancelling them entirely.


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Cite as

Procter, S., Abbas, K., Flasche, S., Griffiths, U., Hagedorn, B., O'Reilly, K., CMMID COVID-19 Working Group & Jit, M. 2021, 'SARS-CoV-2 infection risk during delivery of childhood vaccination campaigns:a modelling study', BMC Medicine, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-021-02072-8

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Last updated: 08 September 2022
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