The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is urging parents to book into their usual GP clinic and ensure their children’s routine immunisations are up to date.
A recent report from the Royal Children’s Hospital stated one in five children aged less than five have had a routine childhood vaccine delayed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The problem may be compounded by the fact that vaccination programs usually offered through schools have been disrupted.
RACGP Victoria chair Dr Cameron Loy said parents should visit their GP for routine vaccinations as soon as possible.
“My message to all Australian families is straightforward – it is absolutely vital that all of your children’s vaccination schedules are up to date,” Dr Loy said.
“Even though we are not leaving our homes and mingling in the community as often, we still must make this a priority.
“Some people are understandably anxious about accessing healthcare due to fears of contracting the COVID-19 virus and others are simply overwhelmed with the day-to-day stresses of living through this pandemic.
“I am mindful of what people are experiencing, but cancelling or postponing these jabs could spell disaster for Australian families in the long run.
“You can have your children vaccinated at your usual GP clinic and I encourage all families to do so. Practices are safe to visit, they have infection control processes in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, such as personal protective equipment, spacing out patients in waiting rooms and comprehensive sanitisation regimes.
“So please make an appointment with your usual GP clinic for your children’s routine vaccinations.”
He warned complacency on routine vaccinations could reverberate through entire communities.
“Vaccines have stamped out diseases like smallpox and polio in Australia but for them to work we all need to play our part,” Dr Loy said.
“In countries like Australia I suspect we take routine vaccinations for granted, but we must remember that a jab to protect your child from a disease like whooping cough will save their life, or the lives of others.
“Take Samoa, where decreased vaccination rates led to a measles outbreak that killed 83 people. Consider that 61 of the first 70 deaths were children aged four and under. These diseases can inflict enormous damage on communities with low vaccination rates and we need to take them seriously.”
Dr Loy said families delaying or avoiding vaccinations would hinder efforts to achieve herd immunity, and diseases such as measles and whooping cough could run rampant.
“Herd immunity only occurs when a sufficiently high percentage of the population has been vaccinated.
“Herd immunity is particularly important for the most vulnerable members of our community such as babies, pregnant women, immunocompromised people, as well as those receiving chemotherapy or organ transplants.
“So please think not only of your own family’s health but also the wellbeing of others and always keep your children’s routine vaccination schedule up to date.”