A concerning new survey has shown Australian parents are delaying medical treatment and vaccinations for their children over fears of coronavirus transmission.
Since March this year one in five children under the age of five years has had a routine vaccine delayed since the onset of the pandemic, according to the latest national child health poll by the Royal Children's Hospital.
“The main reason parents gave for delaying care was fear or concern about their child or themselves catching COVID-19 in a healthcare facility or service,” Doctor Anthea Rhodes from the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne said in a media conference Sunday.
Speaking to reporters, she warned of the long-term ramifications if parents put off vaccinations.
‘We risk herd immunity coming down’
Dr Rhodes said some families are of the misunderstanding that because children are spending more time at home and less time exposed to other children, they are not at risk of catching preventable diseases.
“If we do not keep our kids up to date with their routine vaccines, when we do return to face-to-face learning, which we hope is not too far away, and children go back to childcare environments and the like, those children who are not up to date with vaccines will be at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.”
That includes diseases like hooping cough, measles and chickenpox.
“If our community as a whole is not up to date with vaccinations, we risk the herd immunity coming down, and that means we could see outbreaks of these preventable diseases,” Dr Rhodes explained.
Dr Rhodes also cautioned that delaying scheduled vaccinations could mean less protection for children.
“For any vaccine on the schedule, keeping up with the schedule increases the coverage for that individual if and when they are exposed to that particular virus or infectious disease.
“If a series of delays happen, then individual protection will fall away, so for each vaccine the importance of keeping on time is relevant,” she said.
Drive through vaccinations
As a result of the survey, the Royal Children's Hospital launched a drive through immunisation service allowing parents to safely access routine vaccinations for their children.
This service is available to all children in Victoria, through to 18 years, who are due or overdue a routine vaccination.
Victorian premiere Daniel Andrews also urged parents not to delay primary medical care as it could cause bigger problems in the future.
Parents delaying routine childhood vaccines due to concerns about catching COVID-19. Effective communication needed - vaccine uptake in the pandemic is important & health care facilities are safe. @RCHMelbourne offering a drive-thru clinic, a great innovative solution #rchpoll pic.twitter.com/ZlPBaftv7Y— Dr Anthea Rhodes 👩🏻⚕️📚🎙 (@DrAntheaRhodes) August 25, 2020
“If we do not have people coming forward and getting access to the care they need, we will simply have peoples’ health deteriorating and more and more people having to present to the emergency department, and we don't want that to happen,” Mr Andrews said.
Dr Rhodes reinforced the fact that healthcare facilities have COVIDsafe plans in place and are safe for families to attend, she also reminded parents have access to Telehealth consultations, allowing them to speak to a GP or healthcare professional from home.
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