Nearly a quarter of parents postponed their child’s immunisation appointment during lockdown, a survey has suggested.
A nationwide poll by GlaxoSmithKline shows that of the 564 surveyed parents whose child had a vaccination appointment scheduled during lockdown, 23% had chosen not to attend because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In addition, only around a quarter (27%) of all 2,511 parents polled said they are now comfortable physically taking their child to a medical centre – as opposed to another location – for vaccines.
Anxiety among parents appears to have increased as the pandemic has continued. Before the outbreak 91% of all parents surveyed said they were happy to have their children vaccinated at a medical centre.
A total of 73% of parents said they would have been happy for vaccinations to go ahead during the pandemic – though many mentioned this taking place at alternative locations, with a nurse home visit being the most popular, followed by a drive-through facillity.
However the poll, of parents of young children aged between nine months and ten years, does suggest that 45% of respondents believe vaccinations are now more essential to protect against infectious diseases than they were before the Covid-19 outbreak.
The survey, which took place last month, found 93% of parents are happy for their children to be vaccinated generally, and 29% more likely now than before the pandemic to take up vaccinations for their children or themselves.
Dr Philip Cruz, UK vaccines medical director at GSK, said: ‘Parents are confident about the value of vaccines but there’s anxiety about attending medical facilities during the pandemic.
‘As the NHS continues to deal with coronavirus, it’s important that parents feel confident in the safety measures put in place by medical centres, in line with public health and infection control guidelines.’
This comes as GP leaders have warned of the importance of parents bringing their children in for immunisations during this period.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, told Pulse: ‘We do have concerns that some parents and children have been staying away from surgeries and have missed out on immunisations. It’s vitally important that we ensure that children do get fully immunised. The last thing anybody wants is for an outbreak of another viral condition that is eminently preventable as a result of trying to combat the coronavirus.
‘It is vitally important that parents bring their children for immunisations and that practices are ready and willing to immunise anyone who they can.’
Practices have noticed a recent decline in immunisation rates, with the London borough of Newham serving as one example.
Dr Farzana Hussain, a GP in the borough, told Pulse: ‘Our 0-2-year-old targets are at 89%, not the 92% desired target, and pre-school boosters are 91%, not the 92% desired target.’
Fellow east London GP Dr Muhammad Waqqas Naqvi added: ‘Last year’s immunisations target was 90% and this year’s is 85%.
‘It’s so important to get these immunisations done as we don’t want any outbreaks. It is harder in pandemic times as people are anxious about coming in. Putting up safe protocols and having the time to talk to parents has really helped.’
The RCGP’s guidance on workload prioritisation identified childhood vaccinations as high priority during the pandemic, while Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director of primary care at NHS England, has praised GPs’ ‘creative’ solutions in keeping them going.