6 alternatives if your hospital or clinic can’t give your baby her shots during COVID-19

With healthcare workers stretched to their limits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination services disrupted at some hospital clinics and the warning by the World Health Organization (WHO) of shortages of certain vaccines, it stands to reason that you might be stressing about your babies’ vaccinations. After all, if there’s anything this pandemic reminds us, it’s the important role vaccination plays in protecting us from infectious diseases.

ALSO SEE: To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate, is there really a question?

But what are your alternatives if your local immunisation clinic is closed, or doesn’t have the vaccine your baby needs according to official vaccination guidelines?

Community service clinical psychologist and mom of two boys, Daniella Rezon, has the following advice:

  • Usually paediatricians can direct you to clinics or nurses where you can get your baby vaccinated. If a facility doesn’t have what you need, persevere and find out where you can access the vaccines as making sure your kids get them is vital for their protection.
  • Also, if hospitals or clinics have an issue with stock, they should still be able to point you to another clinic, nurse or hospital in the area (they might even phone ahead for you) or they’ll let you know when they’ll have stock.
  • Some pharmacies can do vaccines, for example, you can book yours at Tyrone Pharmacy in Parkview if you live in that area. Clicks also offers government schedule vaccines as do the baby clinics at DisChem.
  • If you still haven’t had any luck, your GP might be able to assist you. You could also try your obstetrician or even the maternity ward where you had your baby.
  • There are private nurses who can assist too, and some will even come to your home which might be ideal for you. They often include weighing and measuring of your baby and can also offer feeding and sleep advice if needed.

Midwife Pippa Hime adds it’s best not to miss vaccinations and if you can, to find a private baby clinic that runs by appointment in your area so you don’t have to wait in queues and worry about exposing your baby unnecessarily to threat of the COVID-19 virus.

Why you need to keep up your child’s vaccinations during COVID-19

Experts stress it’s important to help prevent outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, polio and hepatitis B.

“One can only imagine the devastation of an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease (VPD) such as whooping cough or polio superimposed on a pandemic where healthcare resources and facilities are already under strain due to COVID-19,” says Dr Nasiha Soofie, Country Medical Head for the Vaccines Unit and Exports Market at Sanofi Pasteur.

National statistics

Despite profound improvements in the South African vaccination programme over the years, vaccination coverage for preventable diseases remains less than ideal at 74 %. Furthermore, it still kills more than half a million children under 5 years of age in Africa every year.

If you refuse or delay your baby’s vaccines, you’re not only leaving her susceptible to preventable infections like measles, whooping cough, hepatitis B, and other diseases, but you’re also making your community vulnerable to outbreaks of these diseases.

The World Health Organization lists vaccine hesitancy” – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – as one of the top 10 global health threats of 2019.

Measles, for example, has seen a 30 % increase in cases globally.

ALSO SEE: 5 immunisation do’s and don’ts

Frequently asked questions

Dr Soofie answers some common questions she’s frequently asked:

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect you against infection or disease. Vaccines are proven in controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and saves lives.

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are manufactured according to strict safety guidelines that meet world standards of quality, tolerability and efficacy. Vaccines have robust development programmes before being made available for general use in the public, and thereafter, are subject to strict surveillance and batch testing. As with all medicines, side-effects can occur, however the benefits of having the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

 Why should I vaccinate against mild diseases like chickenpox?

Mild diseases such as varicella (chickenpox) may not be life-threatening for a child, but it can have serious consequences in unvaccinated newborn babies.

Importantly, by getting your child vaccinated, you are protecting your child as well as others in your community from getting chickenpox.

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