KARACHI: The urgency of the safety measures taken for the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted the routine immunization of children in Sindh, and it must be countered with the mass information campaign regarding vaccination safety and need, experts stressed at a webinar debunking vaccination myths, organized by the Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU) with the Extended Immunization Program, Sindh (EPI).
The webinar titled ‘Myths and Facts About Immunization During the Pandemic’ was held as part of the World Immunization Week to address the myths and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccines.
“The earlier we achieve universal immunization against COVID, the better it will be for our children who can then receive routine immunization easily and safely,” said Prof Lubna Ansari Baig, Chairperson APPNA Institute of Public Health (AIPH-JSMU). She drew attention to the impact of COVID-19 on the routine immunization of children and discussed the vaccination record of the past five years compared to the past year. “Almost 40 million children missed the polio vaccine in Sindh last year while the BCG was the most missed vaccine in the province,” she quoted a recent study. “One in two children missed routine immunization during the lockdown in Sindh; therefore, there is an increasing risk of a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak,” she warned.
Dr Muhammad Juman Bahoto, the newly appointed Director of EPI, Sindh, shared that the EPI focuses on following deadly Vaccines Preventable Diseases (VPDs). Currently, the EPI is providing 11 antigens against 11 diseases. He stressed that World Immunization Week is observed in the province of Sindh to raise awareness about the importance of immunization and vaccinations.
“Currently, the EPI is providing 11 antigens against 11 diseases, and many of the preventable diseases are on course to eradication from the country,” stated Dr Muhammad Juman Bahoto, Program Director EPI.
Dr Naila Tariq, Professor of Pathology, noted the prevalence of negative propaganda against the COVID vaccination and explained that people can still contract the virus but through mutation, and not because of the vaccination. She recommended exercising complete transparency and extensive sharing of information with the public about the testing, development of vaccines, and the adverse effects. “Sharing data about the COVID vaccine and mass information campaign presenting the true results are essential to building the public’s trust and confidence in vaccination,” she said. “Governments must set timelines for achieving mass immunity and work towards that goal with all available resources, including public information,” she emphasized.
Dr Shiraz Shaikh, Associate Professor, AIPH-JSMU, explained how the pandemic has interrupted the Childhood Immunization Programs in 70 Countries and said that immunization was among the top interventions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 2, and 3.
Dr Zaeema Ahmer, Assistant Professor, AIPH-JSMU, highlighted some of the most commonly quoted myths about the COVID-19 Antigens by the general public and clarified that there had been no safety issues to date among the people who have received the vaccination.
Dr Saima Ibad, a lecturer at AIPH-JSMU, moderated the session.