Pandemic disrupts vaccination schedules

Immunisation of children is very important, say experts

Even as scientists across the globe are busy trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the pandemic has disrupted the immunisation schedule for regular vaccines putting children at risk of diseases like typhoid, diphtheria and measles.

The emphasis was only on COVID-19 screening and treatment till June this year at all hospitals, including government hospitals. Awareness programmes on immunisation could not be held due to the pandemic situation. Vaccination services were provided only at Primary Health Centres (PHCs), district hospitals and medical colleges.

The immunisation for regular vaccines had dropped significantly, putting millions of children, both in rich and poor countries, at risk of various diseases, according to the WHO and UNICEF.

A situation like this has a direct impact on lowering the immunisation coverage as people in far-flung areas find it difficult to visit the health facilities. Even now with almost full immunisation services available, there is a remarkable drop in routine immunisations in both the government and the private sectors. This may significantly decrease the immunity level of the population against vaccine preventable diseases. There is a serious risk of an outbreak of diseases like measles, diphtheria after the pandemic.

“All the clinics at government hospitals are open for immunisation for the last three months. Some parents are, however, not bringing their children for fear that their babies would contract the COVID-19. There is no cause for such worry as all precautions are being taken at hospitals,” says P. Venugopal, Head of the Department of Paediatrics, King George Hospital (KGH).

“GVMC Commissioner G. Srijana had got her baby immunised recently. While parents should ensure vaccination of their babies, they should take precautions like adequate protection of their baby, wearing masks, sanitising their hands and maintaining social distance while coming for the vaccination. There is no need to worry, if there is some delay but vaccination is a must to prevent the baby from getting diseases in future,” he says.

“In order to prevent these outbreaks, the immunisation programmers should continue like before. Most hospitals have a separate OPD for any fever or COVID suspect cases and the immunisation area allows entry of only healthy babies/ children. The parents need to be assured that the risk of COVID transmission during vaccination is almost negligible but missing the vaccine can definitely increase the child’s risk of being infected with vaccine preventable diseases,” says Maruthi Prasad Upputuri, consultant paediatrician, KIMS ICON Hospital.

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