Public health authorities including Public Health England, the Chief Medical Officer / Medical Director of NHS Wales, and the Scottish government are advising that all UK routine immunisations should continue as per the national routine immunisation schedule. The Health Service Executive is also advising that routine immunisations in Ireland must continue amidst measures to combat COVID-19.
Provided the child and accompanying parent or carer are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 or other infection, they should continue to attend their appointments for routine immunisations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a comprehensive statement affirming that routine immunisations must continue. We are aware that some routine GP appointments are being suspended at the moment to help protect people from coronavirus, but GP surgeries have clear guidance to continue routine immunisations. If routine immunisations are delayed for you or your child you should request a rescheduled immunisation appointment as soon as possible. If you miss an appointment because you or a member of your household is unwell and self-isolating, you should reschedule the appointment as soon as possible.
Immunisation programmes which normally take place in schools, however, are currently suspended during the “lockdown” period. This includes routine MenACWY vaccine for school pupils and ad-hoc MenACWY catch-ups for young people over 14 who missed their routine vaccine. It also includes catch up campaigns for measles, which can cause viral meningitis. This is in line with WHO guidance which says that mass vaccination campaigns should be paused unless there is an active outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. It is expected that these will resume once recommendations allow people to attend school, work and public spaces again.
Please click here to learn more about routine meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines.
Whilst preventing the spread of coronavirus and caring for those infected is a public health priority, it is very important to maintain good immunisation coverage in order to avoid cases and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases that could increase the number of patients requiring health services.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation, have issued a statement highlighting that it is very important to maintain our national immunisation programme. The full statement can be seen here.
The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) helpline is available for anyone with questions or concerns about immunisation.