Free immunisations for children
The Western Cape Department of Health is making important childhood immunisations available to children who have fallen behind due to the coronavirus pandemic. Immunisations have had an enormous impact on the health of children and protect them from vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, diarrhoea and diphtheria. The scientific evidence is clear: immunisations for your child are effective and help save lives. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing we need is an outbreak of another disease.
Lockdowns and school closures have made it harder for parents and children to access immunisation services, and many healthcare workers have been diverted to the province’s COVID-19 response. This had led to a 22% reduction in immunisations at our facilities. Since August this year, we stated reintroducing free immunisation services and we would like to thank parents for always accessing these services. The City of Cape Town has also established field clinics to allow for the separation of general health care and COVID-19 care at most of its clinics. Staff at these facilities are prioritising the need for childhood immunisations, following up on missed appointments, and checking the Road to Health booklet and the child’s immunisation status.
How do I know when my child needs to catch up?
This depends on your child’s age and which immunisations they have already received. The best way to figure out what your child needs is to check the full immunisation schedule as outlined in the Road to Health booklet or contact your clinic for assistance. Children receive 16 immunisations between birth and the age of 12. Of these, 14 are administered in the first 18 months of their lives. At age 6 and 12, children are due for booster doses. Girls in Grade 5 in public schools also receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which has proven to be effective in preventing cervical cancer. Parents are reminded to make their appointments and bring their healthy children to the clinics for these free immunisations. The HPV vaccine will again be administered next year in public schools once it is safe to do so.
‘COVID-19 disrupted daily routines. Many parents are questioning whether they still need to get their children vaccinated, and low immunisation rates compromise progress in all other areas of health for both mothers and children. I recommend that mothers take their children to local clinics where primary healthcare nurses can administer immunisations that will protect their children against serious diseases. Vaccines play a central role in ending preventable child deaths. Of course, this should be done in strict adherence to the COVID-19 protective measures,’ said Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health.
‘The COVID-19 outbreak reveals what is at stake when communities do not have the protective shield of immunisation against an infectious disease. Vaccines are the most effective tool to prevent outbreaks of dangerous diseases. That’s why staying informed about the benefits of vaccines and the risks of not getting vaccinated is more important than ever. The science is clear. Vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving tools to prevent outbreaks,’ added Minister Mbombo.
Parents are reminded to make their appointments and bring their healthy children to the clinics for these free immunisations. If you have questions about vaccines, the vaccine schedule, or how to catch up if your child did not start receiving vaccines during the pandemic, talk to your health practitioner. Parents can also find information about immunisations and when their child is due for immunisation from credible sources, such as the World Health Organization.
Parents can use social media to share their positive views about childhood immunisations, using the hashtag #VaccinesWork. For more information about the campaign, follow Western Cape Government Health on Facebook.