Women's Empowerment and Child Vaccination in Kenya: The Modifying Role of Wealth

Elsevier, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 60, Issue 1, Supplement 1, 2021, Pages S87-S97
Julia M. Porth, Abram L. Wagner, Cheryl A. Moyer, Martin K. Mutua, and Matthew L. Boulton

Although vaccination coverage is high in Kenya relative to other African nations, under-vaccinated children remain, making it important to identify characteristics of these children and their caregivers. Potentially relevant but understudied factors are women's empowerment and early marriage. Women who marry older and have more autonomous decision-making authority may be better able to ensure their children receive health services, including immunizations. This analysis examines the relationship between early marriage and multiple dimensions of women's empowerment and child vaccination status in Kenya and explores whether these relationships are modified by wealth.

Data were from the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. The analysis was completed in 2020 using updated data made available to researchers in 2019. Logistic regressions assessed relationships among early marriage, 3 dimensions of women's empowerment (enabling conditions, intrinsic agency, and instrumental agency), and child vaccination. Analyses were stratified by wealth to explore potential effect modification.

For women in the middle wealth tertile, the odds of having a fully vaccinated child were 3.45 (95% CI=1.51, 7.91) times higher for those with higher versus lower empowerment. Further, among the wealthiest women, those with middle empowerment were 5.99 (95% CI=2.06, 17.40) times more likely to have a fully vaccinated child than women with lower empowerment.

Results suggest a threshold effect of wealth's role in the relationship between empowerment and vaccination. Enabling conditions may not influence immunization among the poorest women but exert a stronger positive influence on childhood vaccination among wealthier women.