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Coronavirus: Health visitors urge worried parents not to skip vaccinations

Childhood vaccinations must continue during the coronavirus outbreak, health visitors have warned.

Health visitors have raised concerns parents may be avoiding vaccinations because of fears about contracting the coronavirus.

Sally Hirst, a health visitor in Northamptonshire, told Nursing in Practice that she has found new parents are particularly worried about taking children out of the home to be vaccinated.

Ms Hirst continued: ‘I have spent more time than ever over the past few weeks giving up-to-date evidence-based information on vaccines and reassuring parents about the safety of and importance of taking their babies for their primary immunisations.’

Institute of Health Visiting executive director Dr Cheryll Adams told Nursing in Practice that though it was ‘understandable’ that parents might be hesitant about vaccination children during the pandemic, immunisations must still go ahead.

She continued: ‘The immunisations will protect them against a range of equally serious diseases so the expert advice is that it’s essential that these appointments are not missed.

‘Covid-19 infection is very rarely a problem to babies, and surgeries have devised ways to minimise any risk of a parent contracting Covid-19 when they attend,’ she added.

‘A balance of the risks suggests it’s much less risky for the immunisation to go ahead.’

Last week, Dr Adams signed a joint letter with other health leaders in The Times warning that the Covid-19 outbreak could lead to immunisation rates falling.

The letter said: ‘The lockdown in many countries has led to the closure of basic health services, fear from parents about the safety of attending those that are open, concerns from staff about their own safety, and confusion about the provision of services.’

Public Health England head of immunisations Dr Mary Ramsay 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,’ she added.

PHE guidance states that it is still important to maintain high uptake of immunisations during the Covid-19 outbreak, particularly time-sensitive vaccinations for children, babies and pregnant women.

People attending appointments should minimise time spent outside of the home and ensure they are two metres apart from anyone outside their household.

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Childhood immunisation must continue during the coronavirus outbreak, health visitors have warned.