Most of the country, especially Luzon and Metro Manila, are currently on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that most of the general population are encouraged to stay home. And if they need to go out to procure supplies or for health-related reasons, strictly practice social distancing measures and proper hygiene to minimize possible infection. This proves to be a problem for moms who might have well-child checkups or even vaccine schedules set for their kids in the next few weeks.
How to get vaccinated in the time of COVID-19?
Vaccines are an important part of family and public health, as it minimizes the risk of kids acquiring serious illnesses and complications, such as polio, measles, mumps, chickenpox, and diphtheria among others. Hence, parents need to secure the necessary vaccines for their kids.
The Department of Health (DOH) has assured the public that its immunization program will continue despite the prevailing ECQ. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire has assured the public that, “wala pong nabago sa ating serbisyo. Tuloy pa rin po ang ating mga serbisyong pangkalusugan dito sa ating bayan.”
On the immunization program, Undersecretary Vergeire further said that “kahit na po sabihin natin na meron tayong lockdown, ito [immunization program] po ay tinutuloy pa rin natin dahil alam po natin na essential services po itong mga bagay na ito.”
At the same time, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) emphasized the importance of vaccines. In their statement, they said that the recent surge of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) such as measles and polio only proves the fact that immunization services should be prioritized and continued, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, they also recognize the importance for healthcare providers to ensure that they and their patients are safe. So they recommend that healthcare providers hold vaccinations and consultations for their patients in healthcare facilities where there are no confirmed or possible cases of COVID-19. If no alternative location is available, then healthcare practitioners can consider delaying the patients’ vaccines and develop an action plan or schedule for the patient to follow once the quarantine is lifted.
Following the said guidelines, you must get in touch with your Pediatrician first to discuss if a well-child checkup or vaccination is still possible. If he has agreed to an appointment (also ensure that his clinic is not located in a hospital with possible or positive COVID-19 cases), take note of the following guidelines on immunization during this time. Do note that these guidelines only cover kids or patients who are well and not kids or patients who are immunocompromised or on immunosuppressive therapy.
- Ensure that your child is well, this includes:
- No fever, coughs, colds, diarrhea, or any influenza-like illness.
- Had no significant exposure to a suspected or positive COVID-19 patient in the last 14 days.
- Does not reside in areas with identified local transmission or local community placed under enhanced quarantine. Always check DOH and LGU’s updates on community classification. Also, ensure that no one in the child’s household has had an influenza-like illness in the last 14 days.
- Has no absolute contraindications to the vaccine.
- If possible, limit your child’s companion to 1 or 2 caregivers. Also, ensure that the companions are also free of any COVID-19 symptoms (no respiratory illness or diarrhea).
- The pediatrician and assistants are also clear of any COVID-19 symptoms.
- Follow the recommended schedule and administration of vaccines based on the Childhood Immunization Schedule.
- Prioritize the completion of primary immunization series and administration of vaccines of epidemic-prone diseases, such as:
- Pneumococcal and rotavirus are highly recommended as well
- Schedule patient visits to minimize crowding and unnecessary exposure.
- Consider scheduling well-baby consults separately from sick consults.
- Observe strict infection control measures, including proper disinfection of the clinic, proper hygiene for healthcare workers, and proper sanitation and disposal of equipment.
- Ideally, the clinic should be far from heavy foot traffic areas, including Emergency Rooms and Triage Areas.
- Also, note that vaccines routinely given at birth such as BCG and Hepatitis B are continued as scheduled.
Can I opt to delay my child’s vaccines, given the ECQ?
If you’re hesitant to go out with your child because of the prevailing ECQ, or if you think that the risks outweigh the benefits of the vaccine, then it’s best to discuss with your pediatrician about the possibility of delaying your child’s vaccines. If you and your pediatrician do decide to delay, then here are the guidelines to consider in catching up with missed vaccines:
- For delayed vaccines, the due dose should be given at the earliest scheduled visit. Restarting the vaccine series or adding to the doses of any vaccine is unnecessary.
- Combination vaccines can be used to optimize the opportunity to protect the child against multiple diseases during a single clinic visit.
- Simultaneous administration of all vaccines for which the child is eligible is also allowed as it increases the probability that the child will be fully immunized at the appropriate age.
Ultimately, it is best to consult your pediatrician to better weigh the possible risks and advantages of pushing through with your child’s vaccine schedule at this time. At the same time, it is also best to boost your child and family’s immunity by eating healthy, well-balanced meals, being active, and even breastfeeding.