The pandemic underway must not make us forget the importance of vaccination coverage in children and adolescents. What does this mean in practice? Vaccination services should be considered as critical for maintaining the health of the population, particularly in children.
Let's not lose prevention on the road and protect the little ones. The European Region of the World Health Organization, some time ago recalled that "any interruption of immunization services, even for short periods, determines an accumulation of susceptibles, and a higher probability of epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases". But what has happened in Italy in recent months? And how can any difficulties in vaccinations or boosters for children that may have occurred be "recovered"? Here is the opinion of an expert, Paolo Bonanni, Professor of Hygiene at the University of Florence and coordinator of the "Board of the Vaccinal Calendar for Life".
How to keep your guard up
There are no reliable data on the reduction in the use of vaccinations, although a decrease has been reported by some Local Health Units in Italy in recent months. But experts remember how important it is to have the situation in mind. "Surely the Covid-19 pandemic has led, even in Italy, to a reduction in terms of vaccinations for children, especially with regard to boosters after the first vaccination" explains Bonanni. "On the public health front, therefore, it is essential to ensure vaccination coverage in pediatric age for all newborns and obviously pediatric and adolescent recalls. This means that we must resume active calls and scheduled sessions even if they have never stopped ”. What does this mean in practice? It means that vaccination services must be considered as critical for maintaining the health of the population, especially in children. On the organizational front this means several things, albeit in the variability that each Region and ASL can offer in terms of the models adopted, with one imperative: to reassure people, and especially mom and dad, that vaccinations are carried out safely. "It is important to involve the treating pediatrician more and more in vaccination practice, as is already the case in some regional situations, also in order to reduce family travel and facilitate the execution of health balances concurrently" – Bonanni recalls. "Then it must be remembered that even more than two vaccines can be administered in the same session: in some countries up to five different vaccines are administered in the two quadriceps hamstrings without significantly increasing the frequency of side effects compared to the sum of the separate vaccinations. It is equally important that acceptance is by appointment, in order to provide for the non-simultaneous presence of users in the waiting room in crowded situations, and the post-vaccination stay for observation of any adverse events in a suitable environment with physical distance ".
Any "forgetfulness" must be recovered
Public health recalls how essential it is to take back children and adolescents who may have "missed" appointments following Covid-19. "This means quickly planning recovery actions for unvaccinated children and adolescents for compulsory vaccinations for access to school – concludes Bonanni. But with the same urgency also for the highly recommended vaccines, such as those for pneumococcus, and for the different strains of meningococcus: there is a quadrivalent vaccine and one for the B strain only, which must be administered in the very first months of life since the risks of developing meningococcal sepsis, albeit limited in numerical terms but able to translate into extremely serious pictures and with possible long-term deficits, are concentrated in the first year of life. In addition, it is important to remember the importance of vaccination and booster to prevent HPV infection in adolescence. All co-administrations are possible unless they are expressly excluded in the technical data sheet: inactivated and live attenuated vaccines can be administered both simultaneously and at any distance between them. But remember that it is necessary to respect the administration or simultaneous or at least 4 weeks apart for two or more live attenuated vaccines ”. In any case, the pediatrician remains the point of reference for the parents and can give all the information possible so as not to “lose the prevention on the road”.