It is not too late to vaccinate a child who missed their dose, says the NICD

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it is never too late to vaccinate children against deadly diseases. File picture

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says it is never too late to vaccinate children against deadly diseases. File picture

Published Apr 26, 2023


Durban — The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said many children missed out on essential vaccines during the pandemic, which increased their risk of contracting preventable diseases such as measles.

This is African Vaccination Week, and the NICD said it was never too late for parents to take their children to the nearest clinic and get vaccinated.

“This week serves as a reminder to encourage us to get vaccinated and vaccinate our children against deadly diseases. Ensure that you and your loved ones have been vaccinated against measles, rubella, influenza and polio, among others.”

The NICD’s Dr Melinda Suchard, head of the Centre for Vaccines and Immunology, said vaccination involves giving a person small, harmless amounts of an infectious agent (for example a virus) in order for the immune system to see it and prepare itself for the next time it meets the same infectious agent.

She said some vaccines are weakened forms of live infectious agents (called live attenuated vaccines) and some are inactivated parts of the infectious agent.

She added that for people with weak immune systems such as those born with immune deficiencies, recovering from cancer or taking medication that dampens their immune system, live vaccines should be avoided but inactivated vaccines can be given.

“In fact, the non-live vaccines become even more important to protect the person from possible future infections.

“It’s also crucial to check that all other children and adults in the household have been vaccinated, to protect the child catching diseases from them,” said Suchard.

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said millions of children and adolescents, particularly in lower-income countries, have missed out on life-saving vaccinations.

He said while outbreaks of these “deadly” diseases have risen, WHO was supporting dozens of countries to restore immunisation and other essential health services.

“Catching up is a top priority. No child should die of a vaccine-preventable disease,” he said.

He added that with over 25 million children missing at least one vaccination in 2021 alone, outbreaks of preventable diseases were already becoming more prevalent and severe.

The WHO, UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Immunization Agenda 2030 and many other global and national health partners were joining forces to call for “the Big Catch-up”, he said – a targeted global effort to boost vaccination among children following declines driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tedros said the Big Catch-up aims to protect populations from vaccine-preventable outbreaks, save children’s lives and strengthen national health systems.

“While calling on people and governments in every country to play their part in helping to catch up by reaching the children who missed out, the Big Catch-up will have a particular focus on the 20 countries where three-quarters of the children who missed vaccinations in 2021 live,” he said.

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