Children at risk from deadly diseases as parents cancel vaccinations because of Covid-19

6 May 2020, 12:10 | Updated: 6 May 2020, 12:38

Parents are being urged to keep up with vaccinations for their children (file image)
Parents are being urged to keep up with vaccinations for their children (file image). Picture: PA
Matthew Thompson

By Matthew Thompson

Children could be at risk from a host of other infectious diseases as a direct result of the coronavirus lockdown, doctors have warned.

In an exclusive interview with LBC, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has voiced concerns that vaccination rates in children are dropping, both for newborn babies and school age children.

They say it is a "major concern" that parents are cancelling jabs for their children because of the lockdown and over fears of exposing children to coronavirus.

Dctors are concerned that as vaccination rates drop, diseases like measles and meningitis could rise the moment lockdown measures are eased. Measles is several times more infectious than coronavirus, and it only takes a small drop in vaccination coverage before there is an outbreak.

Professor Helen Bedford, Immunisation spokesperson at the Royal College of Paediatrics, said: “It’s a major concern. As a result of the lockdown measures, parents are failing to show up at doctors’ surgeries with young children.

"Young babies aren’t getting primary vaccines, leaving them totally unprotected. People are afraid to go to the doctor. They may think general practice isn’t working, or they’re worried about contracting coronavirus.”

With schools closed, the usual means of distributing vaccines to older children isn’t available.

The United Nations has warned that more than 100 million children could be at risk of contracting measles, particularly in the developing world, as several countries such as Mexico, Nigeria and Cambodia have suspended their vaccination programmes.

The UN says this could lead to disastrous outbreaks across the world from 2020 onwards.

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“The stakes have never been higher. As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, our life-saving work to provide children with vaccines is critical,”said Robin Nandy, UNICEF Principal Adviser and Chief of Immunisation.

“Lots of school nurses and immunisation teams have been redeployed,” Professor Bedford said.

“Where are the people to give the vaccines? Are they going to be available? It’s about making sure there is a plan in place, so that we’re not catching up. We need to be working this out before the lockdown ends.”

Doctors want to get the message across to parents that they must continue to ensure their children get the right access to medical care.

This week the Institute of Health Visitors published guidance for new parents which states:

“If anything, it is more important than ever that your baby has all their vaccinations at the right time. Delaying them exposes your baby to the risk of getting very severe diseases.”

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