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Routine Immunization Lagging Because of Covid Situation

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The urgency of the safety measures taken for covid-19 pandemic have impacted routine immunization of children in Sindh and it must be countered with mass information campaign regarding vaccination safety and need, experts stressed at a webinar debunking vaccination myths, organized by Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) with Extended Immunization Programme, Sindh (EPI).

The webinar titled ‘Myths and Facts About Immunization During the Pandemic’ was held as part of the World Immunization Week to address the myths and misconceptions about the Covid-19 vaccines.

‘The earlier we achieve universal immunization against Covid, the better it will be for our children who can then receive routine immunization easily and safely’ said Professor Lubna Ansari Baig, Chairperson APPNA Institute of Public Health (AIPH-JSMU).

She drew attention to the impact of Covid-19 on routine immunization of children and discussed the vaccination record of the past five years compared to the past year.

‘Almost 40 million children missed the polio vaccine in Sindh last year while BCG was the most missed vaccine in the province,’ she quoted a recent study, ‘One in two children missed routine immunization during the lockdown in Sindh, therefore there is an increasing risk of vaccine-preventable diseases outbreak,’ she warned.

Dr. Muhammad Juman Bahoto, the newly appointed Director of EPI, Sindh shared that the EPI focuses on following deadly Vaccines Preventable Diseases (VPDs).

Currently, EPI is providing 11 antigens against 11 diseases. He stressed that the World Immunization Week is observed in the province of Sindh to raise awareness about the importance of immunization and vaccinations. ‘Currently, EPI is providing 11 antigens against 11 diseases and many of the preventable diseases are on course to eradication from the country’ stated Dr. Muhammad Juman Bahoto, Program Director EPI. Dr. Naila Tariq, Professor of Pathology, noted the prevalence of negative propaganda against Covid vaccination and explained that people can still contract the virus but through mutation, and not because of the vaccination.

She recommended exercising complete transparency and extensive sharing of information with public about the testing, development of vaccines and the adverse effects.

‘Sharing data about Covid vaccine and mass information campaign presenting true results are essential to build the public’s trust and confidence in vaccination,’ she said.

‘Governments must set timelines for achieving mass immunity and work towards that goal with all available resources including public information,’ she emphasized.

Dr. Shiraz Shaikh, Associate Professor AIPH-JSMU explained how the pandemic has interrupted the Childhood Immunization Programmes in 70 Countries and said that Immunization was among the top interventions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, and 3. Dr. Zaeema Ahmer, Assistant Professor AIPH-JSMU, highlighted some of the most commonly quoted myths about the Covid-19 Antigens by the general public and clarified that there have been no safety issues to date among the people who have received the vaccination.

Dr. Saima Ibad, lecturer at AIPH-JSMU, moderated the session. The recording of the webinar is available at www.jsmu.edu.pk.

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