Background India’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) provides basic vaccines free-of-cost in the public sector, yet national vaccination coverage is poor. The Government of India has urged an expanded role for the private sector to help achieve universal immunization coverage. We conducted a state-by-state analysis of the role of the private sector in vaccinating Indian children against each of the six primary childhood diseases covered under India’s UIP.
Methods We analyzed IMS Health data on Indian private-sector vaccine sales, 2011 Indian Census data and national household surveys (DHS/NFHS 2005–06 and UNICEF CES 2009) to estimate the percentage of vaccinated children among the 2009–12 birth cohort who received a given vaccine in the private sector in 16 Indian states. We also analyzed the estimated private-sector vaccine shares as function of state-specific socio-economic status.
Results Overall in 16 states, the private sector contributed 4.7% towards tuberculosis (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG)), 3.5% towards measles, 2.3% towards diphtheria–pertussis–tetanus (DPT3) and 7.6% towards polio (OPV3) overall (both public and private sectors) vaccination coverage. Certain low income states (Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Assam and Bihar) have low private as well as public sector vaccination coverage. The private sector’s role has been limited primarily to the high income states as opposed to these low income states where the majority of Indian children live. Urban areas with good access to the private sector and the ability to pay increases the Indian population’s willingness to access private-sector vaccination services.
Conclusion In India, the public sector offers vaccination services to the majority of the population but the private sector should not be neglected as it could potentially improve overall vaccination coverage. The government could train and incentivize a wider range of private-sector health professionals to help deliver the vaccines, especially in the low income states with the largest birth cohorts. We recommend future studies to identify strengths and limitations of the public and private health sectors in each Indian state.