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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Routine childhood Immunisation during the COVID-19 pandemic

Any interference with routine immunisation services, even for short periods, might result in an accumulation of susceptible people, and a higher likelihood of vaccine preventable diseases related outbreaks.

Updated: April 11, 2020 5:44:18 pm
child immunisation (Source: Getty Images)

Dr Nadeera Nilupamali

As the number of Covid-19 cases rises worldwide, parents are trying to protect their children from the virus since children of all ages are susceptible. Lockdowns and curfews have been imposed in almost every country in order to increase social distancing and decrease virus transmission. However, many parents are also concerned about routine immunisation of their children, especially when it comes to children up to five years of age who are missing life saving vaccines against serious diseases such as measles, Hepatitis B and whooping cough etc.

Any interference with routine immunisation services, even for short periods, might result in an accumulation of susceptible people, and a higher likelihood of vaccine preventable diseases related outbreaks. This will eventually result in an additional burden for the healthcare system.

Should I go for routine vaccination of my child ?

Yes, it is important to keep the child’s vaccinations up-to-date to minimize the chance they’ll need medical treatment while the health system is attending to the pandemic. Having said that protecting your child from Covid-19 infection is the most important thing to do right now. The current lockdown is a temporary measure taken by the government and you can go on with the routine vaccination once the situation becomes normal.

My child’s immunisation is interrupted, do I need to start over?

If a child’s routine immunisation is interrupted, it should be resumed as soon as possible (most of the vaccines have a catchup period ). It is not necessary to repeat the schedule, regardless of the time interval from the previous incomplete schedule. You can also talk to your family doctor and get more advice instead of visiting clinics and hospitals in person. Follow the guidelines given by the government in case they arrange special provisions for vaccinations.

Read| Why pregnant women need to get vaccinated

Should I keep a record of my child’s growth?

This is a brilliant idea, as a parent you should record the child’s growth at home. Measure your child’s height, weight, and head circumference and record them and compare with the normal values. More importantly, make sure your child is getting a balanced diet and adequate liquid.

Remember when the lockdown is over follow up with your doctor and give all the necessary vaccines to your child because vaccines will protect your child by preventing them from contracting severe contagious diseases.

Read| ‘Influenza vaccine is essential for tackling child mortality, health of pregnant women in India’

What if the lockdown lasts long?

In case if the government needs to continue the lockdown for a long period of time then it is very important to take strategic and timely action by the government. As a country, it’s important to measure the epidemiological risk of vaccine preventable disease among the population and vulnerable groups.

Every country needs to organise immunisation delivery servicers and make sure how they can accommodate health staff to maintain the routine immunisation. Also conducting vaccination delivery on time is important during the lockdown, which is going to impact in the long run to combat other diseases.

The government can start disseminating healthcare staff and making mobile vaccination services or they can call only one parent/guardian to accompany a child into the vaccination clinic on a daily basis and cover one region at a time. Also should educate them not to attend the session if they or their child have symptoms of a respiratory infection (such as fever, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath or cough) or have returned from overseas in the past 14 days or have been told to self-isolate. According to WHO, making sure the ‘National Immunization Schedule’ is completed during the COVID-19 or adapting to”stop-start” policy, with the target population receiving the required vaccine doses at irregular intervals over a longer period of time is the way forward.

(The author is co-founder and Vice President (Product), ImmunifyMe Healthcare Technologies Pvt Ltd)

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