BACKGROUND : Although immunisation services are available to all children in South Africa (SA), many children miss or have delays in receiving vaccines. There are limited data on factors associated with missed or delayed vaccination in children in this setting. OBJECTIVE : To assess vaccination coverage and factors associated with missed and delayed diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine third dose (DTP3) vaccination in children aged 12 - 59 months in two SA communities. METHODS : We used data from household-level healthcare utilisation surveys conducted in Soweto in 2012 and in Pietermaritzburg in 2013. Information on vaccination status was recorded from the Road to Health cards or vaccination history from clinics for children aged <5 years. Factors associated with missed or delayed DTP3 vaccination were assessed using unconditional logistic regression. RESULTS : Of a total of 847 eligible children aged 12 - 59 months, 716 had available vaccination information. Overall DTP3 vaccination coverage was high for both sites: 90.6% in Pietermaritzburg and 93.9% in Soweto. However, 32.6% and 25.2% of DTP3 vaccinations were delayed (received after 18 weeks of age) in Pietermaritzburg and Soweto, respectively. The median delay for DTP3 vaccinations was 4.7 weeks (interquartile range 1.7 - 23.0). Factors associated with delayed DTP3 vaccination included being born in 2010 (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 3.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.4 - 6.3) or 2011 (aOR 2.7, 95% CI 1.3 - 5.7) compared with being born in 2008, probably due to vaccine shortages; a low level of education of the primary caregiver, with children whose caregivers had completed secondary education having lower odds of delayed vaccination (aOR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3 - 0.9) than children whose caregivers only had primary education; and maternal HIV status, with unknown status (aOR 3.5, 95% CI 1.6 - 7.6) associated with higher odds of delay than positive status. Factors associated with missed DTP3 vaccination (not vaccinated by 12 months of age) included two or more children aged <5 years in a household (aOR 2.4, 95% CI 1.2 - 4.9) compared with one child, and household monthly income <ZAR500 (aOR 3.4, 95% CI 1.1 - 11.4) compared with ≥ZAR2 000. CONCLUSIONS : Despite high overall DTP3 coverage observed in two communities, many vaccinations were delayed. Vulnerable groups identified in this study should be targeted with improved vaccination services to enhance uptake and timeliness of vaccination.