During the two-year Movement Control Order, it is possible that many parents had to postpone bringing their children to get immunisations according to the National Immunisation Schedule. This did not only happen in Malaysia, as according to the latest data from a joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as many as 23 million children worldwide have missed basic immunisation appointments in 2020, the highest number since 2009 and an increase of 3.7 million cases compared to 20191.
The study also found that from this total, it is possible that up to 17 million children did not even get a single dose of vaccine in 20201. The situation is alarming and the WHO warns that this could lead to serious health problems.
WHO Director-General said that as the world is focusing on the Covid-19 vaccine, other immunisations have been left behind, putting children at high risk of serious but vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio and meningitis1.
Image adapted from Info Sihat, December 2020
The Importance of Completing Children’s Immunisations According to Schedule
Children should get their immunisations on time because:
- It helps reduce the risk of serious illnesses3
Completing immunisations according to schedule helps protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases, for example, measles, hepatitis, polio, tuberculosis and diphtheria. Through complete immunisation as well, the risk of facing serious complications due to a disease can be reduced. For example, measles usually results in complications such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, encephalitis and ear infection4.
- It protects your family members and community3
When we get sick or infected with a virus, we easily spread the virus to people around us. Chickenpox, for example, is highly contagious and easily spreads through droplets from an infected person. It can cause serious complications to adults and can even be life-threatening to newborn babies5.
In addition, pregnant women who are exposed to the chickenpox virus are also at high risk of getting pneumonia, with her baby facing a slight risk of birth defects, known as congenital varicella syndrome6.
Completing immunisations on schedule is one way to protect your family and community, especially those who are unable to receive immunisations for specific reasons. You play an important role in ensuring that diseases that have been eradicated do not resurface and threaten our community today.
- It can help to provide optimal protection7,8
Immunisations are given over a set period of time to ensure that the body produces effective protection. The immunisation schedule is set based on how a child’s immune system responds to the vaccine at different ages. The total vaccine dosage and duration of protection of each vaccine vary according to the particular type of vaccine.
What Happens When You Miss An Immunisation Appointment?
We interviewed a paediatrician, Dr. Ng Yi-Ki to provide you with a better understanding on this matter as well as the safety of getting immunised without following the given schedule.
“You will notice that most of the primary vaccinations are done before a baby turns a year old and boosters are given in their second year of life. This is because their immune system has not had the chance to fully develop yet, making them most vulnerable to infections. So, when we miss an immunisation appointment, we are inevitably putting them at (high) risk of contracting dangerous diseases that can be potentially life-threatening.” - Dr Ng Yi-Ki.
Dr Ng Yi-Ki also added that the childhood vaccination schedule in Malaysia is designed to offer a complete, optimal and well-tolerated protection possible.
“It is important that our baby receives all the required doses according to schedule in order to be fully protected. Opting for an alternative immunisation regime without first discussing with your doctor can jeopardise the child’s protection against vaccine-preventable diseases,” advised Dr Ng Yi-Ki.*
What You Should Do To Catch Up On Your Child’s Missed Immunisation
Image for representation purpose only
Don't worry if your child has missed a few of their immunisation appointments. If you want to get a new appointment, here’s what you need to do8:
- Contact your regular paediatrician to get a new appointment.
- Bring along your child’s immunisation records. The doctor will advise you accordingly regarding the missed immunisations.
- Ensure that your child is ready to receive the immunisation on the day of the appointment.
- Get the next appointment date, if there are more immunisations to catch up on.
- Keep the immunisation records for any future references.
Protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Community
There is no doubt that vaccines play an important role in developing immunity against certain diseases.
However, there are still basic practices that we have to apply in our everyday lives in order to help protect ourselves from any kind of infections, for example, maintaining good personal hygiene such as washing hands frequently, wearing a face mask and avoiding crowded spaces when we are unwell, leading a healthy lifestyle, eating well and ensuring that the environment we live in is always kept clean and hygienic.
Before we end this article, here’s Dr. Ng Yi-Ki’s final advice for all parents out there:
“As parents, we want to do everything possible to help protect our children from harm. While we can only take physical precautions to protect them against some diseases like common viral coughs and colds and Hand-Foot-Mouth disease, we have vaccinations which are historically and scientifically proven to help protect them against more dangerous and potentially debilitating and life-threatening conditions. Completing their vaccinations on time is paramount. Let’s not skip or delay them.”*
Image for representation purpose only
If you have questions about ways to prevent diseases in children, immediately seek advice from the doctor. Always make a decision after getting thorough information because what you decide for your child will also have a huge impact on your family and community.
*This information is provided as a professional service by MSD. The views expressed in the publication reflects the experience and opinions of the authors.
- Unicef. COVID-19 pandemic leads to major backsliding on childhood vaccinations, new WHO, UNICEF data shows. Available From: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/covid-19-pandemic-leads-major-backsliding-childhood-vaccinations-new-who-unicef-data. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.
- Info Sihat. Jadual Imunisasi Kebangsaan Terkini. Available From: https://www.infosihat.gov.my/penerbitan-multimedia/garis-panduan/item/jadual-imunisasi-kebangsaan-terkini.html. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.
- Unicef. 7 consequences and risks of not getting your child routinely vaccinated. Available From: https://www.unicef.org/indonesia/stories/7-consequences-and-risks-not-getting-your-child-routinely-vaccinated. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.
- Mayo Clinic. Measles - Symptoms and causes. Available From: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/measles/symptoms-causes/syc-20374857. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccine (Shot) for Chickenpox. Available From: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/varicella.html. Last Accessed: 12 Jul 2022.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chickenpox (Varicella) For Healthcare Professionals. Available From: https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/hcp/index.html. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.
- MyHealth. Immunisation: Facts and Myths. Available From: https://www.myhealth.gov.my/imunisasi-fakta-dan-kemusykilan/. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.
- UCLA Health. How to catch up on your child’s missed vaccinations. Available From: https://connect.uclahealth.org/2021/05/20/how-to-catch-up-on-your-childs-missed-vaccinations/. Last Accessed: 8 Jun 2022.