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Immunisation registers are regarded as an appropriate solution to measure vaccination coverage on a population level. In Germany, a decentralised healthcare system and data protection regulations constrain such an approach. Moreover, shared responsibilities in the process of immunisation and multiple providers form the framework for public health interventions on vaccination issues. On the national level, those interventions consist mainly of conceptualising immunisation strategies, establishing vaccination programmes, and issuing recommendations. This paper provides an overview on sources and methods for collecting appropriate coverage data at national level and their public health relevance in Germany. Methods of data collection and available information on immunisations are described for three approaches: school entrance health examination, population surveys and insurance refund claim data. School entrance health examinations allow regional comparisons and estimation of trends for a specific cohort of children and for all recommended childhood vaccinations. Surveys deliver population based data on completeness and timeliness of selected vaccinations in populations defined by age or socio-demographic parameters and on knowledge and attitudes towards vaccination. Insurance refund claim data inform continuously on immunisation status (e.g. of children aged two years) or on vaccination incidence promptly after new or modified recommendations. In a complex healthcare system, the German National Public Health Institute (Robert Koch Institute, RKI) successfully compiles coverage data from different sources, which complement and validate one another. With the German approach of combining different data sources in the absence of immunisation registers, it is possible to gain solid and reliable data on the acceptance of vaccination programmes and target groups for immunisation. This approach might be of value for other countries with decentralised healthcare systems.


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