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JAMA. 2000 Jul 5;284(1):53-9.

Effect of a monetary sanction on immunization rates of recipients of aid to families with dependent children.

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Abt Associates Inc, 55 Wheeler St, Cambridge, MA 02138-1168, USA.



Immunization rates among low-income families have lagged behind those for the general community, with several possible barriers cited in the literature.


To evaluate the effect of an initiative aimed at improving immunization rates among low-income preschool children by imposing a sanction on families who failed to provide proof of up-to-date immunization status.


Randomized, controlled before-after trial conducted from January 1, 1993, through December 31, 1996, in Muscogee County, Georgia.


A total of 2500 families with children aged 6 years or younger who received Aid to Families with Dependent Children assistance.


Families in the intervention group (n=1500) were informed that receipt of the welfare benefit for any preschool-aged children was contingent on provision of proof of up-to-date immunization status at the beginning of welfare eligibility and, subsequently, semiannually or annually. Case families in the control group (n=1000) were encouraged to immunize their preschool children but were not informed of any aid sanctions nor did such sanctions apply to them.


Age-appropriate rates of 5 immunizations (measles-mumps-rubella; poliovirus; diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis; Haemophilus influenzae type b; and hepatitis B), based on examination (with family's written consent) of medical provider records, compared among intervention-group vs control-group families.


There were no significant differences at baseline between intervention and control families in immunization rates of preschool children. Families in the intervention group were significantly more likely than families in the control group to have up-to-date immunization status in all 4 years of the study for all 5 immunizations (with 3 exceptions). At age 2 years, 72.4% of children in the intervention group vs 60.6% of those in the control group achieved vaccine series completion, which included 4 diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis, 3 poliovirus, and 1 measles-mumps-rubella (P<.001). Sanctions were implemented only 11 times. There was relatively little increased burden on the part of families to comply with requirements.


In our study, a monetary sanction in a population receiving welfare benefits stimulated a significant increase in childhood immunization rates, suggesting that when welfare recipients are given an incentive to keep their children's immunizations up-to-date, most are able to do so. JAMA. 2000;284:53-59

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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