By: Dr. Joselyn A. Eusebio
President, Philippine Pediatric Society
Fear of COVID-19 has caused many children to miss scheduled vaccinations. This poses a high risk of an impending outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases like measles, on top of an ongoing pandemic. To help address this, innovative solutions such as drive-through vaccinations and home visits were made in place of clinic consultations during the lockdown. But a great majority of parents have opted to wait for the return to normal.
This is just a reminder of the importance of vaccination. 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 for which vaccines are available. Most of these vaccines are given during your child’s first 1000 days of life.
This healthy start paves the way for lower risks of both acquiring and spreading the infection to the immediate family as well as to the community, thus preventing outbreaks of these diseases.
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 of age.
There is hope that we can go back to pre-pandemic vaccination coverage and even surpass this, thus avoiding outbreaks similar to what we have seen with measles in 2017- 2019 and polio in 2019 up to the present time.
Here are essential truths about having babies vaccinated – yes, even while the pandemic is at large:
1. 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 formulated by local experts. These guidelines describe how to safely and efficiently conduct vaccinations and out-patient visits to protect children, parents and physicians. It is best to set an appointment with your physician prior to the visit.
2. Vaccines have passed extensive safety and efficacy studies prior to licensure.
3. The first 1,000 days in an infant’s life are critical for receiving immunization on schedule. 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, Pneumococcal, Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR), Influenza, Japanese Encephalitis, Hepatitis A, and Varicella.
4. 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 such as pneumonia, ear infections, neurologic disorders, and even death. It is never too late to catch up on immunizations.
As a parent, you can do your part in protecting your baby during this pandemic and have a hand in ensuring your baby’s health. Have regular consults with your healthcare provider regarding immunization schedules. Follow health and safety protocols when setting appointments and 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.