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Gaps in childhood immunizations and preventive care visits during the COVID-19 pandemic: a population-based cohort study of children in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada, 2016-2021


Objective — We aimed to estimate the changes to the delivery of routine immunizations and well-child visits through the pandemic.

Methods — Using linked administrative health data in Ontario and Manitoba, Canada (1 September 2016 to 30 September 2021), infants <12 months old (N=291,917 Ontario, N=33,994 Manitoba) and children between 12 and 24 months old (N=293,523 Ontario, N=33,001 Manitoba) exposed and unexposed to the COVID-19 pandemic were compared on rates of receipt of recommended a) vaccinations and b) well-child visits after adjusting for sociodemographic measures. In Ontario, vaccinations were captured using physician billings database, and in Manitoba they were captured in a centralized vaccination registry.

Results — Exposed Ontario infants were slightly more likely to receive all vaccinations according to billing data (62.5% exposed vs. 61.6% unexposed; adjusted Relative Rate (aRR) 1.01 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00-1.02]) whereas exposed Manitoba infants were less likely to receive all vaccines (73.5% exposed vs. 79.2% unexposed; aRR 0.93 [95% CI 0.92-0.94]). Among children exposed to the pandemic, total vaccination receipt was modestly decreased compared to unexposed (Ontario aRR 0.98 [95% CI 0.97-0.99]; Manitoba aRR 0.93 [95% CI 0.91-0.94]). Pandemic-exposed infants were less likely to complete all recommended well-child visits in Ontario (33.0% exposed, 48.8% unexposed; aRR 0.67 [95% CI 0.68-0.69]) and Manitoba (55.0% exposed, 70.7% unexposed; aRR 0.78 [95% CI 0.77-0.79]). A similar relationship was observed for rates of completed well-child visits among children in Ontario (aRR 0.78 [95% CI 0.77-0.79]) and Manitoba (aRR 0.79 [95% CI 0.77-0.80]).

Conclusion — Through the first 18 months of the pandemic, routine vaccines were delivered to children < 2 years old at close to pre-pandemic rates. There was a high proportion of incomplete well-child visits, indicating that developmental surveillance catch-up is crucial.



Evans A, Mahar AL, Deb B, Boblitz A, Brownell M, Guttmann A, Stukel TA, Cohen E, Sarkar J, Eze N, Katz A, Raveendran T, Saunders N. Can J Public Health. 2023; Jul 13 [Epub ahead of print].

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