Delayed vaccinations could imperil children, say experts

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The vaccination schedule of children in the State appears to have been disturbed following the lockdown to contain COVID-19. Vaccinations have dipped by 50% in the past one month as these could not be administered on children in the first two weeks of the lockdown, thereby creating a huge backlog.

The situation is alarming, especially in pockets where the immunisation rates are already suboptimal, says M. Narayanan, State president, Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), Kerala. If immediate intervention is not made, there are chances of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria in vulnerable areas.

To cover lost ground, the IAP, Kerala, has joined hands with the government in a drive to deny emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases in the State when the government and front-line health workers are fighting the pandemic. The government has issued an advisory for restarting the immunisation activities both in public and private sector institutions. At the public health centre (PHC) level, parents of unimmunised and partially immunised children will be informed about the date, time, and place of immunisation in advance by the junior public health nurse. No mass vaccination campaigns would be conducted till the pandemic subsides.

‘Filling the Blanks’

The IAP has come out with a plan called Filling the Blanks to encourage parents to bring their children for the missed vaccines. Paediatricians will enter in an app the vaccination status of children at the outpatient department. The app will send text messages to the parent’s mobile three days prior to the vaccination date.

Unprotected children get exposed to diseases easily as against the herd immunity that protects them when there is 85% or more vaccination, says Dr. Narayanan. Measles is one of the most transmissible infections, with an attack rate of 12 against the 1.4 to 5.7 for COVID-19. Attack rate denotes the number of persons who will be infected from a single patient.

Vaccinations for pneumococcal disease, chickenpox, hepatitis A, and typhoid also have dropped. The sales figures of these vaccines show a drop of 5% to 30% compared to previous months, says Dr. Narayanan.

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