Jabs to protect infants from infections on the decline

It is vital for babies to be fully immunised for their own protection.

It is vital for babies to be fully immunised for their own protection.

Published Apr 21, 2024


Cape Town - City health workers have raised concern about the decline in infant immunisations across the metropole.

In the run-up to World Immunisation Week, Mayco member for health, Patricia van der Ross, said the directorate had recorded a 16% decline year-on-year in follow-up immunisations of children younger than 12 months.

She said most children were considered fully vaccinated at one years old provided all the vaccines scheduled from birth to 12 months had been administered.

“The scheduled vaccinations will provide the child with adequate protection against a number of infectious diseases. Should they come into contact with the specific virus that they were immunised against, they might have no symptoms or very mild symptoms and their risk of complications are very low.”

She said, during oversight visits, they have found children at clinic as old as seven who had not yet received adequate immunisations.

“The decline is calculated not by the birth rate, but by the first two immunisations which are compulsory at the six-week and three- month mark after a child is born. We have found that after the compulsory checks the decline becomes obvious and this is for various reasons and there is not a specific district. It is across the entire metropole and, in fact, the Western Cape.”

She said due to pressures faced by parents to provide for their children, being at work often took precedence over a visit to the local clinic.

For this reason the department initiated visits to local day-care centres and schools to ensure children are immunised.

“It's not a new initiative, but a refocused one. In one of the oversight visits we found a seven-year-old who did not have any immunisations that they should have received as an infant.

“We understand that for many parents and in the tough economic times going to work to get food on the table will take a more important role, so with the visits to daycares and schools we have a team who makes arrangements with the principal of the school and with the permission of the parent the immunisations are administered.

“We also provide a six-month Vitamin A top-up and deworming. This assist the busy mom who cannot get to the clinic or local pharmacy. The sisters are well trained and are able to spot when a child has not been immunised.”

In a comparison, the department found that in 2022, a total of 34 382 infants had been fully immunised. This figure dropped to 29 004 last year.

Van der Ross said some parents felt embarrassed and often never get the immunisations when they are aware that the clinic books are not up to date.

“They feel if the book is empty they are being bad parents, but the only thing that makes you a bad parent is staying away.

“Immunisation has enabled us to minimise the risk of serious illness and fatalities. I want to encourage parents and caregivers to ensure immunisation schedules are up to date. Don't hesitate as it could have serious and even fatal consequences. We ask that parents don't wait until there is an outbreak of something and then panic. Protecting your child is essential,” she said.

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