By Dr. Sushanth Shivaswamy, Consultant, Neonatology, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield
The impact of COVID 19 virus has changed the way we live and work. Although, people now have come to terms with the ‘new normal’, the fear of the virus had led patients to avoid hospital visits. This has led to interruption of routine vaccination visits and postponement of crucial vaccines. Although the fear of COVID 19 is understandable, how can we ignore the severity of vaccine preventable infectious diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, polio and the like. As noted by health care experts and institutions like the World Health Organisation, even temporary disruption in routine vaccination services can lead to secondary health crises such as measles outbreaks amplifying the impact of the pandemic.
It is now more important than ever to remember the adage ‘Prevention is always better than cure’. Vaccinations in children protect against a wide range of viruses and bacteria ranging from seasonal illnesses like flu or chicken pox to endemic life-threatening infections like whooping cough, meningitis and pneumonia. Hence, it is yet more crucial to ensure appropriate vaccinations during a pandemic considering that health resources are already over-stretched dealing with COVID 19.
Why are children more susceptible to infections? Childhood is the most vulnerable stage in human life. Children crawl on the floors, eat what they can get their hands on, share their toys with other children and play with pets. In all these activities, the child is exposed to germs and this along with the fact that their immune system is still immature makes them more susceptible to catch infections and fall sick. Vaccines prime and prepare the child’s immune system to tackle these germs without the risk of contracting the infection. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to maintain the routine vaccination schedules for kids along with their routine growth and developmental assessments.
Why should vaccinations be timely? Vaccination schedules are devised based on the age of risk of contracting specific infections and to ensure the maximum immunological response. Hence, when vaccines are done as per their recommended schedules the child is fully protected against those germs. Consequently delay or postponement of vaccines will leave the child vulnerable to those germs and put his/her health at risk
Safety on top priority:- Hospitals are taking the utmost care in ensuring a safe environment for visitors. They are limiting the number of people visiting the hospital every day. The temperatures and travel history of the visitor are mandatorily checked. Visitors and children are allowed after they sanitize their hands and put their masks on. Sanitization of the common surfaces, wearing protective gear and maintenance of adequate social distancing are some of the major steps followed at hospitals to ensure a safe visit. Hospitals also have a separate ‘fever clinic’ area for patients with flu like symptoms to mitigate the risk of inadvertent exposure to visitors.
Regularly scheduled immunizations are extremely important. Avoiding or delaying the same due to COVID is definitely not the solution, especially since the fight against the pandemic will be a long haul. Get an appointment with your paediatrician and ensure you continue your child’s vaccination without interruptions. Vaccinations are the most cost-effective preventive health intervention ever! Be Wise, Immunise!