A message from Dr. Helena Swinkels and Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Marion Guenther, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Immunizations, CDPPH office of the Chief Nursing Officer
While many things about the COVID-19 pandemic are out of our control, there is still much we can do to keep ourselves and our children as healthy as possible in the midst of it. Of course, we all need to follow public health recommendations to wash hands, wear masks, and keep physically apart while staying socially connected. We also need to remember that one of the most important things we can do to protect our infants and school-aged children remains keeping their immunizations up to date. This will help to protect them from getting – and possibly spreading – vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, and whooping cough. These diseases can still circulate in our communities, particularly as our social circles widen with the gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions – and vaccination is still the best protection.
Don't wait – vaccinate!
With schools and daycares scheduled to reopen in BC this fall, it's a good time to check your child's immunization records to ensure their vaccinations are up to date. This is especially important for infants and young children, and for children entering school for the first time or moving to a new school. Contact your child's health care provider for an appointment to get vaccinated. For more information about why this is so important during the pandemic, please read our previous message here.
Vaccination rates are down because of the pandemic
We know that vaccine rates are down because of the pandemic, which brought about a dramatic shift from in-person visits at healthcare providers' offices to virtual or telehealth appointments. Annual physicals, check-ups for chronic conditions, and especially childhood vaccines were temporarily put on hold.
However, for our children's and community health's sake, we need to catch up on our children's immunizations as soon as possible. This is because even a short stop in immunization services can result in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) due to more people being left at risk. This could result in a greater burden on healthcare systems, which are already under pressure with the COVID-19 outbreak.
In other words, putting off vaccines could leave your child, your family, and your community at risk for disease.
Health centres are safe
Parents understandably may be concerned about COVID-19 safety risks when visiting health centres and physicians' offices during this time. Health centres, health directors, doctors, and nurses have taken careful steps to ensure both providers and clients can stay safe when providing or receiving essential in-person health services – and immunizations are an essential service.
Phone ahead, plan ahead
Phone ahead to learn about your local health provider's / centre's safety plan and to make an appointment. Remember to bring the most updated copy of your child's immunization record you have each time you visit a nurse or physician for an immunization appointment. Your health care provider will review the record, update recommended vaccines (if necessary), and update the record.
So, be kind, be calm, be safe – and please make sure your and your children's immunizations and records are up to date!
For more information about immunization, visit this page.