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Analytical summary - Immunization and vaccines development

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Since its inception, the Expanded Programme on Immunization in Liberia has led to a gradual increase in annual diphtheria–tetanus–pertussis (DPT) immunization coverage from a woeful 6% in 1997 to 42% in 2000. In 2000 and 2001, an attempt was made to improve the immunization coverage and Liberia received an award as best performing country in the WHO African Region, despite operational difficulties from the Task Force on Immunization in Africa.

However, the gains could not be consolidated in the country and coverage dropped by 50% to 31% in 2004 from 61% in 2001. The period from 2001 to 2005 saw fluctuations in DPT coverage from a low of 34% in 2003 to a peak of 87% in 2005.

The decline in coverage values was due to insecurity and consequently limited access to communities following the intermittent conflicts during this period, especially from 2002 to 2004. Higher coverage figures from 2005 to 2008 were achieved partly through intense supplementary immunization activities (county and nationwide outreaches).

Immunization coverage by antigen, 2011. BCG, Bacille Calmette-Guérin; OPV, oral polio vaccine; penta, pentavalent

Liberia faces an enormous challenge to achieve and sustain universal immunization coverage, which is a core indicator for the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 4.

In 2011, immunization coverage for the five antigens administered to children aged 0–59 months were:

  • Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) 78%
  • third dose oral polio virus (OPV3) 77%
  • third dose of pentavalent vaccine (Penta-3) 78%
  • measles 73%
  • yellow fever 71% (see figure).