Are we speaking the same language? An argument for the consistent use of terminology and definitions for childhood vaccination indicators

Vaccination indicators are used to measure the health status of individuals or populations and to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccination programs or policies. Ensuring that vaccination indicators are clearly and consistently defined is important for effective communication of outcomes, accurate program evaluation, and comparison between different populations, times, and contexts.

The purpose of this commentary is to describe commonly used vaccination indicators and to highlight inconsistencies in how childhood vaccine researchers use and define these terms. The indicators we describe are vaccine coverage, uptake, and rate; vaccination status, initiation, and completion; and up-to-date, timely, partial, and incomplete vaccination.

We conclude that many vaccination indicators are not explicitly defined within published research studies and/or are used quite differently across studies. We also note that the choice of indicator in a given study is often driven by program or vaccine specific factors, may be constrained by data availability, and should be chosen to best reflect the outcome of interest. We conclude that the use of consistent language and definitions would promote more effective communication of research findings. We also propose some standardized definitions for common indicators, with the goal of provoking discussion and debate on the issue.

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MacDonald SE, Russell ML, Liu XC, Simmonds KA, Lorenzetti DL, Sharpe H, Svenson LW

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