You might be inclined to head to the doctor every time your little one shows signs of even the smallest sniffle, but when there's a pandemic on the loose, it’s advisable to avoid healthcare settings as much as possible to limit the risk of exposure to the virus. But what about the regular baby check-ups for vaccinations? We know they are important, but are they really that time sensitive?
“Vaccinations of young children should be a top priority,” says Dr Nitin Verma, Consultant Paediatrician, Kings College Hospital, Dubai Marina and Dubai Hills. “The World Health Organization (WHO) said recently that disruption of immunization services, even for brief periods, will result in increased numbers of susceptible individuals and raise the likelihood of outbreak-prone vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) such as measles.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US reports that fewer childhood vaccines have been administered during the Covid pandemic compared with the same period of time in 2019. This has led to concern that, as social distancing rules relax and venues reopen, children will be at greater risk for other dangerous infectious diseases, other than Covid, that could have been prevented through vaccination. "Vaccines given between 0 and 24 months of age are vitally important in disease prevention across a cohort of infectious diseases," says Dr Verma. "In these unusual times, short-term delays may be acceptable but further than that, it can potentially put your child at a greater risk of getting unwell with a vaccine-preventable infectious disease."
However Dr Verma adds that for older children it’s reasonable that a booster vaccination visit could be rescheduled to a later date when parents feel more comfortable.
Dr Prabhakar Patil, Specialist Paediatrician, Medcare Women and Children’s Hospital adds: “WHO recommends giving the primary vaccination for first-time vaccines at the moment. If you are worried about exposing your child to a healthcare setting where there may be other infectious individuals then some clinics may have separate well baby clinic timings just to give vaccines - you can inquire about them.”
However, if you do end up missing your baby’s vaccination then Dr Patil says there’s no need to worry on an individual basis: “It's possible to delay the vaccination if really necessary; except for a few vaccines like the rotavirus vaccine [which must have the first dose given by 15 weeks and the second dose by 8 months], there is no upper limit to how much time we can delay with vaccinations and it can be given as soon as it feasible to give.”