With the advent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) came fear and uncertainty. Many parents ask me when to give a COVID-19 vaccine and what to do about regular vaccinations of children during an epidemic. Here we answer the most frequently asked questions.
Should I vaccinate my child regularly during COVID-19 outbreaks?
Although our daily lives are affected by COVID-19, the answer is yes. Whenever possible you should have your child vaccinated. In order to protect infants and children from serious diseases, it is important to administer regular vaccinations (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, BCG, hepatitis, measles, etc.) in the required number and at regular intervals in the immunization calendar. When your child starts communicating with other children again, these vaccines will also protect them from other diseases.
Contact a healthcare provider for vaccination services. As the situation regarding Covid-19 changes day by day, health care services can be arranged according to the new situation. If you are unable to reach a clinic that will administer an expired vaccine to your child, set a reminder to complete the vaccination as soon as the service resumes.
What can we learn from this epidemic? What can this epidemic teach us about other diseases and vaccine decisions?
The epidemic reminds us again of the value of vaccines, showing that when a vaccine is available for a disease, we need to vaccinate our children and ourselves in a timely manner. Without vaccine protection, diseases can spread rapidly and have serious consequences. Measles and other diseases, for example, pose a constant risk. We have a great opportunity to have a vaccine against these diseases.
How effective is the vaccine?
Vaccines help our immune system recognize germs to fight infections by exposing them to pathogens (bacteria or viruses) or parts of them. These germs do not make us sick because they are inactive. However, by triggering our immune system, it enables the development of defenses called antibodies. Then, every time we encounter this germ, our immune system learns how to fight it.
Where can I find the most up-to-date vaccination guidelines?
Consult health organizations, local and national health authority websites (such as the Ministry of Health) and guidelines prepared by WHO and UNICEF.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?
To avoid contamination, you can take some precautions for yourself and your family:
- Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth.
- When coughing or sneezing, cover your face and nose with your elbows or a tissue. Dispose of used tissue paper in a covered trash can.
- Avoid crowded places and close contact with people. Keep a safe distance from those who have symptoms like cold or flu (cough, sneeze, fever).
- Avoid greetings by shaking hands, hugging and kissing. Do not share food, utensils, glasses and towels.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas such as telephones, doorcombs, light switches, remote controls, ladder handles and countertops.
- Stay at home when you feel sick, even if you have a mild fever and cough.
- Use a mask to cover face and nose completely.
How can I protect my child under one year from COVID-19?
In addition to all the advice given about hand washing, social distance and hygiene, parents should make extra efforts to protect their young children from contamination. If possible, breastfeed your baby. There is no evidence that breast milk is infected with the virus. However, during breastfeeding and at other times, you should take standard hygiene and respiratory protection measures to prevent respiratory infections. If available, disinfect counter tops and replacement areas once a day with disinfectant.
Always try to keep young children with the same care and reduce the number of people they come in contact with. Encourage caretakers to wash their hands regularly, not to share items that touch the face, such as glasses, and stay away if they feel sick.
What should I do if my child has symptoms of Kovid-19? Is it safe for me to take her to the doctor?
If your child has a sore throat, cough or fever, call your doctor or healthcare provider for advice before leaving. Infections among others may require special measures to prevent infection. If your child has more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath, or appears to be abnormally ill, call for emergency help and take them to the nearest emergency room.
Most children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms. However, it is important to protect the elderly and others who are susceptible to serious infections. Therefore, if you think you have a COVID-19 patient or contact, keep your child at home and call your doctor or healthcare provider for advice.
Like other respiratory infections like the flu, try to intervene as soon as you or your child has symptoms. Do not go to public places (work, school and public transport) and do not come in contact with adults or family members with immune system problems. If you live in the same house with an older person, separate the spaces for home use.
Should I have my child’s Covid-19 tested?
Follow the local health authority’s recommendations about who should be tested.