Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) vaccination rates remain well below herd immunity in regions of many countries despite huge international resources devoted to both financing and access. We draw upon service marketing theory, organisational sociology, development anthropology and cultural consumer research to conduct an ethnographic study of vaccination delivery in Jimma Zone, Ethiopia - one such region. We find that Western public health sector policies are dominated by an administrative logic. Critical failures in delivery are produced by a system that obfuscates the on-the-ground problems that mothers face in trying to vaccinate their children, while instead prioritising administrative processes. Our ethnographic analysis of 83 mothers who had not vaccinated their children reveals key barriers to vaccination from a 'customer' perspective. While mothers value vaccination, it is a 'low involvement' good compared to the acute daily needs of a subsistence life. The costs imposed by poor service - such as uncaring staff with class hostilities, unpredictable and missed schedules and long waits - are too much and so they forego the service. Our service design framework illuminates specific service problems from the mother's perspective and points towards simple service innovations that could improve vaccination rates in regions that have poor uptake.
Global Public Health, 2014, Vol 9, Issue 10, p. 1152-1166