As the race to find a vaccine against the coronavirus speeds up, the pandemic has shown the importance of vaccines in keeping us safe. Yet South Africa’s child vaccination rate has dropped.
Does this put our children’s health at risk, especially as more children go back to the classroom?
The considerable drop in immunisation coverage is partly due to a fear of going out and catching the coronavirus. Also, there were low vaccine stock levels countrywide because of disruptions in the logistics supply chain during the height of lockdown, making access difficult.
According to statistics from the Department of Health (DOH) only 61% of South African kids were vaccinated by April this year. This number is down 21% from 2019. Vaccinations for measles also decreased further to 55%. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the immunisation coverage for countries to be 95%.
Why you should vaccinate
We need to keep people with immune response issues, babies and young children safe from viruses and diseases.
While the DOH has issued a “catch-up” schedule for parents who may have delayed or missed key vaccinations to follow, all parents are urged to ensure that your children are vaccinated by the end of November 2020, which will allow enough time for your child to build up immunity before starting school in January 2021.
It takes about four to six weeks for vaccinations to start working.
If you pay for medical services with cash because you have limited or no medical aid, or if you rely on government vaccination stock, you’ll need to get your kids vaccinated sooner in case there are stock issues.
Are vaccines safe?
While no medical intervention is 100% safe, there’s clear evidence that vaccinating children helps to protect them.
The only time you should avoid vaccinating is where it has been proven that your child is allergic to the vaccination or its ingredients, or where immunity is suppressed.
The decision to vaccinate should be analysed according to the risks and benefits. When making these decisions, it’s crucial to think about the disease the vaccine can protect your child from, and to get the right information from credible medical sources.
Dr Iqbal Karbanee is a leading, qualified South African paediatrician with over 28 years of medical experience. His passion for helping children and babies to live their healthiest lives led to him establishing Paed-IQ BabyLine in 2015, South Africa’s first telephonic-based helpline for medical advice given by paediatric-trained nurses. Dr Karbanee, with a special interest in childhood nutrition, particularly childhood obesity, today leads the paediatric practice at the CapeGate Mediclinic.