Dear Parents, Here's Why Vaccinating Your Children Is Critically Important During A Health Crisis
When it comes to protecting our children's lives during this time, Filipino doctors have two words for parents: routine immunization
Taking children to see the family doctor for a vaccine whose clinic is in a busy hospital might sound like an irresponsible parenting decision these days, but trust the medical experts who insist that you do—there are more health threats to contend with if you don't.
Of course, it goes without saying that venturing out into public spaces—a hospital, no less—comes with considerable health risks; SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes dreaded COVID-19, affects all people of every age including children, and so, it is understood that a doctor's visit means having to strictly follow health and hygiene protocols to protect you and your family from infection.
With that knowledge, you might ask—is it worth the risk?
Think of it this way.
While protocols like practicing cough and sneezing etiquette, social/physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and the wearing of protective gear can greatly decrease the chances of contracting COVID-19, there are many diseases that a child can get and suffer from—some just as life-threatening as the irreversible effects of COVID-19—that existing vaccines can effectively prevent.
That in itself should hopefully answer the question posed above: Yes. It is absolutely worth it.
Here are what doctors had to say about the importance of children's immunization, especially in a time of a global health crisis:
The Philippines' children vaccination rate hit a historic all-time low of 7% in 2020's first quarter
In numbers, this 7% translates to about two million Filipino children missing out on routine vaccinations in this year alone due to the pandemic for several related reasons: parents may not have logistical access to healthcare facilities, they may not be able to afford them during this time, vaccine deliveries may not reach the country's far flung areas, and parents may actually choose not to immunize their children because of misinformation preaching the "danger" of vaccines.
This means that Filipino children are at an unnecessarily high risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, polio, influenza, diphtheria (a severe infection that commonly leads to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death), rubella (otherwise known as German measles), pertussis (a.k.a. whooping cough), and neonatal tetanus, a disease that most severely affects infants.
Most of these diseases are highly contagious, each presenting a unique set of potentially long-term effects on a child's physical, mental, and developmental well-being.
So for moms and dads who do have the luxury of access to and a budget for complete vaccines, doctors strongly encourage them to push through with getting their children immunized to protect them from the dangers of the diseases mentioned above, among others.
Remember, vaccinations don't only protect your children. They protect other children (and adults, too, that vaccine-preventable diseases can just as easily infect) who are unable to receive vaccinations themselves. By vaccinating a child, parents also protect the lives non-vaccinated children and their families in the process. (Read more about the concept of herd immunity to better understand this).
Vaccine-preventable diseases have seen a resurgence
During the last six years, it was observed that a drop in children's vaccination rates have gone hand in hand with an unwelcome comeback of deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. The scale of these "comebacks" was so alarming that doctors feared outbreaks, especially during a time when a worldwide health crisis continues to strain the healthcare system and burden families.
Diseases like measles and polio that were considered "eradicated" or had been controlled within the population, for instance, have seen resurgences in the Philippines. The Philippines was polio-free for 19 years until September 2019 when 17 cases were recorded, while measles had a whopping 130% increase in cases in the same year.
The biggest problem these resurgences pose is causing a "secondary pandemic" next to the COVID-19 crisis which has shown no signs of slowing down. As many vaccine-preventable diseases are also highly contagious, doctors fear that Filipinos families may face multiple health challenges should the no-vaccinations trend continue among children.
More so, in a worst case scenario where a child becomes COVID-19 positive, getting sick with other vaccine-preventable diseases at the same time increases both morbidity (the seriousness of the disease and its effects) and mortality (the chances of a child dying from either or both diseases).
Vaccinate. Be part of the solution to the pandemic, not the problem to a second, or even third health crisis.
Flu season is on the horizon, and it coincides with the continuous rise of COVID-19 cases
All one has to do is scan the headlines to learn that the Philippines has not flattened the curve or seen an end the the "first wave" of positive COVID-19 cases. More and more Filipinos continue to get infected every day, and many hospitals and healthcare facilities have once again announced that their critical care units are at full capacity. But if a child is COVID-19-free, what does this have to do with vaccines for other diseases?
To put it simply, should your child come down with measles, polio, pneumonia, or the flu and, God forbid, require confinement and round-the-clock critical care, there could be a chance that hospitals might not have a bed for your child or enough medical workers and doctors to attend to your child's needs.
The situation is surely an unimaginable nightmare for every parent.
Influenza season is of particular concern, as its seasonal arrival during this time of the year coincides with a steep increase in the country's COVID-19 cases. A word of caution is shared with families with children below 15 years of age, as they are one of flu season's most at-risk groups and are highly susceptible to its serious side effects including pneumonia and heart failure.
Right now, the best way to address these concerns is to schedule an appointment with the family doctor or pediatrician as soon as possible. They'll be happy to provide you with information on your child's vaccinations and when to schedule them, explain the advantages of routine immunization, and suggest other ways to keep your child and family healthy during this time—and for life!
As they say, prevention is always better than cure, and that certainly rings true when it comes to protecting children from life-threatening diseases.
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