Fear of COVID-19 has caused many children to miss scheduled vaccinations. To help address this, innovative solutions such as drive-through vaccinations and home visits were seen in the past months. Likewise, catch-up vaccination schedules are in place, but even then it is still best to adhere to your pediatrician’s recommended schedule. Missed vaccinations pose an impending outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases like measles, amidst an ongoing pandemic. Through immunization, vaccines help develop a child’s natural defenses to fight vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). Immunization is best done prior to the exposure of a child to viruses and bacteria covered by vaccines. Most of these vaccinations would occur during your child’s first 1000 days of life.
This healthy start paves the way for lower risks of both acquiring and spreading outbreaks and diseases to the immediate family and the community as well. In 2019 alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that immunization prevents 2 to 3 million deaths annually, and that this number can go up for up to 1.5 million more should routine immunization continue to be prioritized globally.
Risks of vaccine hesitancy
As a reality, there are parents who are more proactive in completing their kids’ immunization than others. Some parents’ hesitation may come from a place of refusal of vaccination despite its availability. This situation is called vaccine hesitancy. Delays may be either from a matter of acceptance to engage in the practice, or the loss of confidence and trust in vaccination in general.
According to UNICEF, there was a decline in child immunization coverage last year, and this coverage is projected to decline further due to the disruption of routine immunization activities caused by COVID-19. It is estimated that this will affect at least 2 million children under two years old.
Immunization, or the lack thereof, is not totally up to the parents. If vaccination information and health services are not prioritized even during times like this, more children will be at risk of communicable diseases, their quality of life jeopardized, as well as their future.
Addressing immunization issues
Dr. Joselyn A. Eusebio, President of the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), assures that there is hope despite these hurdles to strengthening children’s immunity through vaccination. First is for information campaigns about the safety and effectiveness of vaccination. At the same time, these dissemination initiatives should correct any misconceptions about vaccination.
Here are essential truths about having babies vaccinated – yes, even while the pandemic is at large:
Hospitals and doctors’ clinics have made sure safety protocols are in place for well-baby check-ups.
Visits to the pediatrician for immunization shots are safe, thanks to guidelines created by the Philippine Pediatric Society/Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines. With the pandemic in mind, these guidelines contain how to safely and efficiently conduct vaccinations and out-patient visits for parents’ ease of mind, as well as the protection of children.
While safety measures are being rolled out, it is still advised to consult your pediatrician prior to visits, preferably through telehealth. Don’t forget to inform the doctor about your child, your family, and community’s state of health to practice responsible consultations.
Vaccines have passed safety studies. Completing vaccinations is a milestone for your child.
Vaccination provides immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines enable production of the antibodies needed to combat natural diseases. When a child is then exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease, the body can provide the protection it needs.
The first 1,000 days in an infant’s life are critical for receiving immunization on schedule. Some of the recommended vaccinations that should not be missed during this period are: bacilli Calmette-Guerin (BCG), Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B (DTaP-IPV-Hib), Rotavirus, Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR), Influenza, Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis A, and Varicella.
Below is a quick look on the age and corresponding milestone for infants to receive the mentioned vaccinations:
AGEVACCINEMILESTONEBirthBCGHepatitis BStartles6 weeksHepatitis BDTap-IPVHIBPCVRotavirus(+) Social Smile6 monthsInfluenzaMeasles (MMR)Sits with support; reaches and transfers objects, turns to sound; babbles; chews (semi-solids)9 monthsJapanese EncephalitisSits alone; utters “dada”, “mama”; waves bye-bye12 monthsMMRVaricellaHepatitis AStands alone; utters 3 words with meaning; drinks from a cup; attempts to use a spoon
In the event that a child missed a vaccination, he or she is left vulnerable to a disease that could be fatal. For example, a baby that missed an MMR shot could acquire measles and suffer from complications of pneumonia, with a future risk for subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE).
It is never too late to catch up on immunization.
If for any reason a child misses a vaccination schedule, catch-up sessions are possible. In a time as uncertain as now, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that there can be an increased number of vaccine-preventable diseases because of either delayed or suspended routine immunization.
As a parent, you can do your part in protecting your baby during the pandemic and have a hand in ensuring your baby’s health. Initiate regular updates with your pediatrician or healthcare provider about immunization schedule. Follow health and safety protocols when setting appointments or during visits to health facilities. While the world is waiting for a vaccine against COVID-19, you can call the shots for your baby’s protection and have your child’s immunity strengthened today.