The COVID-19 pandemic has caused healthcare providers to change how they operate to continue to provide essential services to patients.
In a media roundtable on best practices for routine immunization with the Department of Health (DOH) in Region X (Northern Mindanao), experts emphasized that maintaining or reinstating immunization services is essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.
As countries concentrate their efforts towards facing the COVID-19 pandemic, Karen Yee-Garces, EPI Coordinator, and Dr. Emma Pilar lmperio, Medical Officer of Family Health Cluster in DOH Region X, stressed the need to continue immunization programs despite these circumstances.
Maintaining high immunization rates across all age groups is essential to protect the population, they said, as vaccination efforts are still needed to prevent and control the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio, and pneumonia, among others.
DOH - Centers for Health Development in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, together with their partners in the government, have already started adapting strategies such as house-to-house visits for the vaccination of children, pregnant women, and the elderly while strictly observing community quarantine guidelines.
Northern Mindanao has been identified as one of the regions to exhibit best practices in routine immunization.
Vaccine hesitancy is not an issue that can be addressed at an individual level. It is a multi-faceted issue and multiple stakeholders involved in immunization have a role to play, the experts said.
“For example, parents have an important role to play in bringing their children to health centers or allowing their children to be immunized from vaccine-preventable diseases. LGUs and local leaders must also help in advocating and supporting the vaccination programs of the government,” they added.
Immunization plays an important role not only in protecting people from vaccine-preventable diseases, but also in protecting the community’s health, the DOH said. Historically, vaccination helps to keep serious diseases from spreading, and have also helped to eradicate these diseases altogether.
Vaccination services are also being continued in some local health care facilities or in identified fixed immunization sites while practicing social distancing, proper hygiene and disinfection, and overall safety.
Routine immunization is also the foundation for strong, resilient health systems and universal health coverage, DOH Region X added. “Vaccination is also a cornerstone of public health. It is one of the most effective and cost-effective methods of preventing the spread of infectious disease.”
“In building vaccine confidence and a more resilient health system for immunization, there is a need to address the stigma surrounding immunization which still hinders many people from getting the necessary vaccination to protect them from infectious diseases,” it said.’
As a health intervention, vaccination helps lessen the burden on public health systems and protects the general population from exposure to infectious diseases, the DOH said.
Without immunization services, susceptible age groups specifically children and the elderly will be most at risk of exposure to other deadly diseases apart from COVID-19, it added.
“It is clear that immunization must not be neglected to avoid outbreaks of different vaccine-preventable diseases. Per guidelines, local governments must ensure that these vaccination services are administered under safe and adaptable conditions,” DOH said.
Overall, health authorities are encouraging everyone to give due attention to continuing national immunization services so that communities may continue to control the emergence or re-emergence of other deadly diseases while battling COVID-19, the experts said.
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