Around 20 per cent of parents in the UAE forget their children’s routine vaccination.

That’s according to doctors in the UAE who highlighted that most parents are unaware that missed vaccines could be taken later through a “catchup” schedule.

Medics explained the mandatory childhood vaccines as per the Department of Health (DOH) are BCG, Hepatitis B vaccine, Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus vaccine, Haemophilus influenza type B vaccine, Pneumococcal vaccine, Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine, Varicella vaccine, and Polio & Rota virus vaccines.

Dr Hussein Nasser Matlik, HoD and Consultant Pediatric Neurology Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said, “Roughly one to two out of ten parents may occasionally forget or delay their child's vaccinations. These instances often occur within families facing social challenges.”

He added, “However, it’s important to note that vaccination delays are generally not acceptable. While some families may cite their child's illness as a reason for postponement, this shouldn't be used as an excuse. Vaccinations should ideally proceed as scheduled, with delays of no more than two to three days unless there’s no acute illness.”

Parents are advised that through routine visits to paediatrician, they should discuss how to get the remaining vaccines through catch-up schedule and also discuss the need for optional but recommended vaccines.

Dr Sandeep Panikkasseri Dasan, Specialist Paediatrics, Aster Clinic, Muhaisnah said, “Two out of ten parents tend to forget their children’s routine vaccination. The prevalence of zero-dose vaccination was 14 per cent globally and seven per cent in the Middle East during the pandemic as per UNICEF data. Most parents were unaware that missed vaccines could be taken later through what is called a ‘catchup’ schedule.”

In addition to routine immunisation, recommended the optional vaccines are influenza, typhoid, hepatitis A, and meningococcal.

Immunisation before Umrah, Eid travel

Dr Osama Elsayed Rezk Elassy, clinical assistant professor, consultant, and head of the division, Centre for Paediatrics and Neonatology, Thumbay University Hospital, said, “As Muslims worldwide prepare for the upcoming Ramadan and subsequently would be performing Umrah, it's crucial to recognise the heightened risk of exposure to contagious diseases, particularly among pilgrims travelling with children or elderly individuals.”

They explained shared dining facilities and potential hygiene challenges during such peak time of the year “increase the likelihood of disease transmission, making preventive measures imperative. Influenza, commonly known as the flu, poses a significant threat due to its rapid spread in crowded environments.”

Therefore, all pilgrims should receive an annual influenza vaccine before leaving on their journey. “Given that influenza strains can vary each year, ensuring that travellers receive the updated vaccine matching prevalent strains for that season is essential. The Hepatitis A vaccine is also crucial for older children, particularly if travelling to areas with poor sanitation standards.”

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that affects the liver and is primarily transmitted through contaminated food and water. “This (Hepatitis A) vaccine provides long-term protection and is recommended for all travellers.”

Vaccinate 4-6 weeks pre-departure

Healthcare professionals also pointed out that it’s always emphasized to parents that immunizations should be obtained as soon as possible to protect their children's health, especially during times when travel is more common. “There are a few parents, in the rush of holiday preparations, forget or postpone immunisations,” he added.

Medics stressed reminder systems can help highlight the need to get vaccinations on time while also reducing missed chances, both at home and when abroad.

Elassy added, “Vaccines should ideally be administered at least four to six weeks before travel to allow sufficient time for the body to develop immunity. This timeframe ensures the maximum effectiveness of the vaccine and allows the completion of any required vaccine series. Additionally, it provides ample time to meet specific travel requirements, such as vaccination mandates for entry into certain countries or regions.”

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