Are childhood vaccinations being given a back seat to COVID-19?
That’s the concern of a Port Coquitlam mom frustrated over losing an appointment for her baby’s 12-month shot booked in November.
The appointment, scheduled for Jan. 21, was cancelled with 24-hours notice last week because public health nurses are being redeployed for COVID-19 contact tracing.
“That does not seem right that we are potentially putting our children at risk,” said Nicole Preston, noting that shots are important for warding off diseases, such as measles, mumps, rubella and pertussis — diseases that can be deadly to babies.
Fraser Health confirmed that due to the continued high number of coronavirus cases more staff are being hired and others being redeployed “to support with contact tracing.”
However, the health authority said it’s working with “community partners” to provide childhood vaccinations in communities where public health staff continue to support contact tracing.
But Preston said she called three doctors to get her baby’s shots when the public health clinic at Port Moody cancelled the appointment: two said they didn’t do immunizations and a third has not gotten back to her.
“Parents have enough to worry about with COVID and everything, the last thing they need to worry about is immunization,” Preston said.
When Preston’s appointment was cancelled, she was given no alternatives. It wasn’t until the next week that public health called her unexpectedly to book an appointment two weeks after her initial date.
While she’s experiencing some relief that her baby’s delayed vaccination can go ahead — he’ll get his 12 months and 18 month shots at the same time — Preston worries about other parents whose appointments are delayed or cancelled due to COVID-19 staffing issues.
She said one doctor’s office said they had five families “worried about this, too,” Preston said.
Fraser Health said redeploying staff has resulted in some routine childhood immunization clinics being temporarily rescheduled. “We are contacting families who had appointments postponed to rebook their appointments,” wrote a spokesperson.
However, as of Jan. 22 the Tri-City backlog in childhood immunization has been cleared up, said the spokesperson, and there is no shortage of vaccines for routine child immunizations.
The statement also noted that families unable to access childhood vaccinations through their usual care provider can call Fraser Health’s Central Booking Line to book an appointment at a public health unit. The number to call in the Tri-Cities is 604-476-7087.