Immunization coverage of children in care of the child welfare system in high-income countries: A systematic review

Children in care of the child welfare system tend to underutilize preventive health services compared with other children. The purpose of this systematic review was to assess current knowledge regarding immunization coverage levels for children in the child welfare system and to determine barriers and supports to them utilizing immunization services.

Articles published in Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, SocINDEX, and ERIC from January 1, 2000 to October 13, 2017 were searched. Thesis and conference databases and relevant websites were also examined. Studies were included if written in English, from high-income countries, and addressed immunizations for children in the child welfare system. Independent dual screening, extraction, and quality appraisal were conducted between October 2016 and December 2017, followed by narrative synthesis.

Of 2,906 records identified, 33 met inclusion criteria: 21 studied coverage, two studied barriers/supports, and ten studied both. Nineteen studies were moderate or high quality and thus included in the narrative synthesis; 15 studied coverage, one studied barriers/supports, and three studied both. Most studies found lower coverage among children in child welfare. The few studies that explicitly studied barriers/supports to immunization identified that a collaborative and coordinated approach between health and social services was key to service delivery to this population.

This review highlights that children in care of the child welfare system are at risk of poor immunization coverage. There is a need for high-quality studies on this issue, with a focus on assessing supports/barriers to immunization in this population.

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Hermann J, Russell M, Featherstone R, MacDonald SE

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