Covid-19: ‘Vital’ vaccines must continue

Life-threatening preventable diseases could make a “resurgence” if people shy away from routine vaccinations during the Covid-19 crisis, experts have warned.

Immunisation services must be maintained to reduce the risk of illness which can be prevented by vaccines including measles, whooping cough and meningitis, according to experts who advise UK health departments on vaccines.

In a letter sent last week to the health system, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said that during this time it is “very important” to maintain services.

A vaccination is prepared
A vaccination is prepared

“This will avoid outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and allow us to provide important protection to children and other vulnerable groups,” the letter states.

“It is important to maintain the best possible vaccine uptake to prevent a resurgence of these infections.”

The letter adds that immunisation should proceed, providing that those attending appointments, and their parents, do not have symptoms of Covid-19 or are not self isolating.

“It is vital that we sustain services,” the letter adds.

Details of the letter emerged as global health leaders said that routine immunisation programmes are “more critical than ever before”.

Access to vaccines for all has transformed our societies. Immunization is a precious public good that must be maintained to be effective, even more so in #COVID19 times.

— Hans Kluge (@hans_kluge) April 20, 2020

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef said that the Covid-19 pandemic is a “stark reminder that infectious diseases know no borders”.

Dr Hans Kluge, director of the European arm of the WHO, said: “We can prevent further impact of Covid-19 on our healthcare systems by assuring that individuals of all ages remain vaccinated according to national schedules.

“I urge countries to maintain immunisation service delivery and drive demand for vaccination, through the life-course, even at this difficult time.”

Commenting on the WHO announcement, Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England, said: “The national immunisation programme is highly successful in preventing serious and sometimes life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia, meningitis, whooping cough, diphtheria and measles.

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