By Grahame Anderson

Health professionals are becoming increasingly concerned about children missing out on vital immunisation because of parents fears over the coronavirus crisis.

To compound the situation, social media conspiracy theories about the pandemic are doing little to reassure guardians about the value of this crucial form of protection as we remain in lockdown.

NHS Message

In light of this, NHS England are appealing to parents not to miss appointments for their children during the crisis. The clear message is essential vaccinations are still available.

“The national immunisation programme remains in place to protect the nation’s health and no-one should be in any doubt of the devastating impact of diseases such as measles, meningitis and pneumonia,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England.

“During this time, it is important to maintain the best possible vaccine uptake to prevent a resurgence of these infections.”

And remember – visits to clinics and GP surgeries are allowed as long as none of the family is experiencing symptoms of Covid-19. Staff administering any vaccine are currently wearing PPE, so gently reassuring your child in good time will help them deal with the process.

Only this week Public Health Wales have reported a small drop in routine vaccination numbers. Last month UNICEF warned of future measles outbreaks around the world, as a result of vaccination delays due to the pandemic.

Reassuring Bradford

Sarah Muckle, Director of Public Health for Bradford Council, told us:“It is more important than ever to ensure your children are protected from serious illnesses to ensure they stay healthy during lockdown.

“Making sure your children are up-to-date with their vaccination is the best thing you can do to make sure they are safe and well during this period.”

Dr Kirsty King, GP and clinical lead for children and young people, NHS Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) added: “It’s so important to make sure that children continue to get their routine vaccinations; they are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases such as measles and mumps.

“I’d like to reassure people that children can still get routine vaccinations as normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

“GP practices are very much still here to help. Although most appointments are happening over the phone or via video consultation, those that do need to come into the surgery for things like routine vaccinations, are able to do safely. Your GP practice will give you advice on what to do when you book your appointment. We just ask that you let us know if you or somebody in your household is self-isolating due to coronavirus.

“Even if your child has missed a vaccination, I would urge you to call your GP practice as you will still be able to catch up.”

WHO Reminder

The World Health Organisation has said: “The two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s health are clean water and vaccines.”

Both babies/children currently require immunisation at 8, 12 and 16 weeks – one year and three years – four months.

GP Principal Farzana Hussain, of Project Surgery in East London told the BBC: “Life is all about risks and benefits. The benefits of having your kids vaccinated is so much greater, it would be a tragedy if we saw measles or diphtheria make a comeback.”

According to Oxford University’s Vaccine Knowledge Project, diptheria killed about 3,500 children each year in the UK, before a vaccine had been developed.

Forget The Conspiracy Theories

Dr Daniel Allington, Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King’s College in London, carried out a coronavirus conspiracy study along with Digital Humanities colleague Nayana Dhavan.

Their citizen me survey, revealed 29 per cent of survey respondents expressed belief in one or more of the three conspiracy theories. These were there’s a connection between 5G mobile network radiation and the virus – There’s no good reason for the lockdown – and any coronavirus vaccine will contain a micro-chip – all three of course have been completely debunked as dangerous and fake news.

Dr Allington explained: “These findings show the conspiracy fantasies currently circulating on social media are likely to present a major public health risk, potentially compromising our ability to fight against the pandemic.

“The findings are also consistent with earlier studies which have found a relationship between conspiracy beliefs and reluctance to follow public health advice with regard both to vaccination and to safer sex.”

Back in Bradford and across the UK the advice is you should remind yourself vaccines will protect your child for many years against a range of serious illnesses. Without vaccination, your child is at greater risk of getting these illnesses. Protecting your children from a number of potentially serious illnesses means they are more likely to remain healthy and reduce pressures on NHS services.

Their new guide, available online, for parents and carers of young children is reinforcing the message it’s important to make sure children are up-to-date with their vaccinations.

For more information from Bradford health visitors on immunisation and child health, visit www.betterliveshealthyfuturesbw.nhs.uk