Pandemic or not, a child’s vaccination schedule must not suffer

It is safe to get your kid vaccinated in the pandemic. but you need to follow some precautions.

By Dr Bakul Parekh

In the last 1.5 years, the pandemic has dramatically disrupted our lives, leading to unprecedented challenges to public health at large. However, Covid-19 has taught us a lesson that cannot be forgotten. It has underlined the importance of protecting against vaccine-preventable diseases through timely vaccination.

Vaccines are a long-term health investment that can provide high returns in the form of improved immunity and protection against infections if taken at the right time. The delay of a vaccine dose may impact the timeline of the subsequent doses, making children vulnerable (especially babies under one year) to diseases which they would be protected from if the primary vaccination is given on time.

The set of primary vaccines such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and H. influenzae Type B vaccine scheduled at 6-week, 10-week and 14-week of life are important and need to be given as soon as possible. Similarly, the measles vaccine scheduled at 9 months of age needs to be given as early as possible. It is also advisable to administer the latest strain of influenza vaccine at appropriate time for children, adults, and healthcare workers to protect them against influenza.

Also Read |Taking kids out for vaccination during the pandemic? Follow these precautions

Due to the fear of contracting Covid-19 and imposed travel restrictions and lockdown, parents have been avoiding visits to the clinic leading to an approximate 50 percent downfall in patient inflow. This has in turn impacted children’s vaccination schedule with a lesser number of kids being vaccinated compared to previous years. To prevent a VPD outbreak, there is a need to immediately devise strategies and to scale-up routine immunisation. Missing or delaying the primary vaccine may increase a child’s exposure to various deadly viruses and infections. It is, therefore, important for parents to ensure that at a right time their child receives the necessary vaccine including strictly following their booster vaccine schedule. Some of the steps that parents should follow while visiting the doctor’s clinic for vaccination include:

  • Taking a prior appointment before visiting the clinic to avoid crowds.
  • Always carry a sanitiser and wear a mask.
  • Only one parent/ guardian must visit the clinic along with the child.
  • Maintain social distance while in the clinic or wait in the car/cab outside for your turn.

During an epidemic, even a temporary interruption of basic health-care delivery such as routine vaccination services may lead to secondary health crises and might have an adverse effect on our economy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued guidelines that subsequent vaccine doses have a permissible waiting period for interrupted or delayed immunisation. Now as the lockdown restrictions are being lifted across the country, a more viable and intensified solution for administering the deferred vaccinations needs to be put in place.

(The writer is Past-President of Indian Academy of Pediatrics & Member of Pediatric Task Force of Maharashtra.)

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