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In this article:
1. Importance of vaccinations
2. Should I vaccinate my child during COVID-19?
3. Safety tips during vaccination visits
COVID-19 is an unprecedented health emergency which India and the rest of world are currently dealing with. The coronavirus pandemic is interrupting the immunization schedule of many children as many parents are worried about the potential exposure to coronavirus if they take their babies to a hospital. India is projected to record the birth of more than 20 million babies between March and December this year, according to a latest UN report. Without vaccinations, all these children will be susceptible to a host of life-threatening diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, rotaviral diarrhea, measles, polio, etc., and infants under one year of age are most vulnerable. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to go about the vaccination of your children during this coronavirus pandemic.
Importance of vaccinations
Immunization is one of the most fundamental and cost-effective public health interventions to date. Vaccinations not only offer protection to our children but they also help in protecting community at large (concept of herd immunity wherein vaccination provides protection to both those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated as they are less likely to be exposed) and they also provide protection for the future. Most new parents have a fair idea about vaccine preventable diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, rotaviral diarrhea, measles, polio, thanks to a very strong immunization network in our country but the present COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to unwind decades of progress against these vaccine preventable diseases. Babies less than one year of age have an immature immune system and vaccination is the cornerstone of protection for them against vaccine preventable diseases. Missing or delaying a vaccine dose may impact his or her vaccination schedule, making the child susceptible to various diseases. Also, there is a considerable risk of focal outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases (VPD) like measles if immunization services are disrupted even for brief periods. This will put an additional burden on our already fragile healthcare systems.
Should I vaccinate my child during COVID-19?
Leading global health agency World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the importance of maintaining essential health services such as immunization during this ongoing pandemic. Both, the Government of India and Indian Academy of Pediatrics – Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Immunization Practices (IAP-ACVIP), have issued guidelines advising continuation of routine immunization activities under conditions which are safe both for health care providers and the community during the current coronavirus pandemic. Missing or delaying vaccine doses may negatively impact the vaccination schedule of a child making him or her susceptible to various diseases. Prioritizing vaccines in immunization schedule is also important in the current scenario. All newborns must be administered BCG, OPV and Hepatitis B vaccines before discharge from the hospital. Primary vaccination series DPT, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), OPV/IPV, Rotavirus, Pneumococcal (PCV), Influenza, MR/MMR, Varicella should never be missed, delayed or postponed. Multiple vaccines can be given in a single visit without the fear of increased side effects.
Safety tips during vaccination visits
Certain general instructions to be followed by parents for utilizing vaccination services are as follows:
Although delaying vaccination is not a new phenomenon, it is neither advisable nor recommended by pediatricians world over, simply because of the reasons discussed above. The fear of coronavirus is resulting in missed or delayed vaccinations, but many hospitals are taking safety measures to keep you and your child safe during routine vaccination visits. The bottom line – go for your child’s vaccinations without any hesitation.
About the author:
Dr. Puneet Anand is an experienced pediatrician and neonatologist currently practicing at Fortis Hospital - Kangra, India.