More rural Indian kids get vaccinated than urban ones

Contrary to earlier studies, children in rural India have higher vaccination rates than those in cities, while Hindu kids are more likely to get their shots than Muslims, researchers from a leading American university have said.

Said to be first study of its kind, the report released by the University of Michigan compares vaccination rates across religious groups in India.

The research by U-M's School of Public Health found that urban children between the ages of 1-3 years have an 80 per cent chance of not being vaccinated when compared to children in rural areas, the university said in a release.

"Urban areas have pockets of slums where health care services are not reaching," said lead author Nijika Shrivastwa, who recently finished her doctorate in epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

People in rural areas, she added, often have access to healthcare in government hospitals that deliver free vaccinations. Community health workers and public health centers have also done a good job of spreading vaccination message in villages, she said.

Although India is a leading producer and exporter of vaccines, the country is home to nearly a third of the world's unimmunized children. Only 57 per cent of children younger than 3 are fully vaccinated, the university said.

"This study highlights the need to develop a much better understanding of the social factors that influence childhood vaccination and the role that infrequently examined issues - such as caste, religion, sex, residence and poverty - play in determining whether or not a child receives potentially life-saving immunizations in India," said Dr Matthew Boulton, senior author of the study and senior associate dean for global public health at U-M.

The study broke down the vaccination rate based on residence, religion, wealth, gender, maternal age and education. The researchers found that the vaccination rate also differs considerably based on religion.

Children from Muslim families have significantly poorer vaccination outcomes, while Sikh children are better immunized when compared to Hindu children. Sikh children are 14 per cent more likely to be better vaccinated and Muslim kids are 122 per cent more likely not to be vaccinated, the report said.