Kids still need to get vaccinated for diseases during COVID-19, nursing expert says
Hamilton has yet to see cases of major childhood vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, mumps and rubella
A nursing expert worries about an uptick in diseases like measles and whooping cough because fewer people are getting vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic — the province and Hamilton Public Health say physical distancing is stymying the spread.
Ruth Schofield, an assistant clinical professor of nursing in McMaster University's faculty of health sciences, told CBC News one consequence of the message from officials to stay home is that it may discourage some from getting vaccinated.
"It's happening in the preschoolers, where sometimes immunization has not been continued or reduced because of having to go out to clinics or into a family practice [during the pandemic] … and so some of the immunization has not always been done or delayed," she said.
"We've eradicated smallpox, but we have not eradicated measles and whooping cough so we certainly want to ensure infants are getting their primary series, and during their preschool years get their booster, and even in their school years to ensure they're protected adequately."
Schofield said ignoring an infant's vaccine schedule could leave them exposed to diseases.
Province hasn't seen uptick
David Jensen, an Ontario Ministry of Health spokesperson, told CBC News they haven't seen an uptick in these illnesses.
"COVID-19 measures in place (i.e. reduced travel, physical distancing and essential services only) likely would prevent the transmission of most vaccine preventable diseases," he wrote.
"As reopening frameworks are implemented and more people are moving around, it will be important for individuals and parents/guardians to ensure that vaccinations are up-to-date so that we do not see increases in vaccine-preventable disease outbreak and clusters."
Jensen added people can still get their vaccinations and that immunization services are also expected to increase as COVID-19 restrictions loosen.
Dr. Ninh Tran, Hamilton's associate medical officer of health, told CBC News the supply and demand for vaccinations in the city is likely less than before COVID-19 but agreed that the current restrictions have prevented people from contracting other illnesses.
"In March and April, we haven't seen any cases of the major childhood vaccine-preventable diseases including measles, mumps, rubella," he explained.
"We're aware of the issue. We keep immunization top of mind … we don't want for COVID to be the reason why we see resurgence or increased cases of other diseases."