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Call to keep up childhood vaccinations during pandemic

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HEALTH experts have sounded the alarm after noticing a significant drop in the number of children receiving vaccinations in recent months.

According to the City of Cape Town’s Health Department, there was a 67% drop in the number of vaccinations carried out at clinics across the city, due to people avoiding day hospitals and clinics in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Between birth and the age of 12, children receive 16 vaccinations. Most are in the first 18 months of their lives. Vaccinations help reduce the risk of childhood diseases such as measles, chickenpox, polio, diphtheria and tuberculosis.

A paediatrician at Melomed Tokai Private Hospital, Leana van Dyk, said: “It’s extremely important to vaccinate your child, regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many dreaded diseases are now under control thanks to the effect of vaccines over the past few decades. Most of these diseases are now mostly seen in children that have not been vaccinated, and are often fatal. An example is the recent measles outbreak in the UK and US. There have also been outbreaks of diphtheria that was believed to be extinct. Most of this can be attributed to no being vaccinated,” she said.

“We managed to develop vaccines against diseases that caused a very high death rate among children. These are serious diseases, and if not treated soon after infection, can be fatal. It makes sense to prevent your child from getting these diseases, rather than waiting for the disease to possibly make your child very ill or cause death.” 

Country medical head for the vaccines unit and exports market at Sanofi, Nasiha Soofie, said going for a vaccination was an “investment”.

“A vaccination is the most cost-effective tool to prevent a number of infectious diseases which incur a great financial burden on individuals and the country. 

“It also helps prevent acquiring some very aggressive and fatal infections such as flu and meningococcal disease where recipients are spared immense suffering, permanent disability and death. 

“The greater the number of individuals who are vaccinated in a community, the greater the chances that those who were not able to receive a vaccine are also protected,” she said.

Mayco member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien, said: “The statistics of the past few months suggest we have fallen behind. Measles is particularly problematic, as it’s a highly contagious infection. 

“And while it appears to be quite a mild disease, it has a high rate of complications. It’s also the one childhood disease that requires a two-dose vaccination, first at six months and then again at 12 months.

“As part of its efforts to remedy the situation, city health has started opening overflow facilities to allow for the separation of general health care and Covid-19 care at most of its clinics.

“The onus cannot be on clinic staff alone, though. We need parents and caregivers to do their bit by making their appointments and bringing the children to the clinics for these vaccinations,” he added.

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