Some children are not getting their childhood vaccinations on schedule due to Alberta Health Services’ focus on COVID-19 immunizations.
AHS said recently there have been some delays to routine childhood vaccinations due to staff and resources being redeployed to support COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
While the Well Child program, of which childhood vaccinations are a part of remains a priority – there are wait times of 11 days in Red Deer and 26 days in Sylvan Lake.
“There may be times due to operational demand where we need to postpone scheduled Well Child clinics,” AHS said in a statement.
“In these instances, we work to rebook families at the next available clinic that falls within recommended vaccination guidelines. All appointments are carried out with appropriate pre-screening of clients and following physical/social distancing principles.”
No child should fall through the cracks and not get vaccinated, says Dr. Peter Bouch, with the Red Deer Primary Care Network.
“It’s definitely a manpower issue, probably a money issue as well,” said Bouch.
He said all vaccinations are important, and so is checking the child’s height, weight and general health which are done at the same time. Notes can be sent to their family doctor about any concerns.
Alberta Health recommends young children be immunized at two, four, six, 12 and 18 months old, and four years old for diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, polio, and more.
A grandmother told the Advocate her grandson hasn’t been able to get his two-month appointment in central Alberta and now he’s old enough for his four-month appointment.
Bouch said Red Deer doesn’t want outbreaks of any diseases on top of COVID-19.
“(Alberta Health Services) has got to reassure parents and at least give them some sort of plan. Reassurance is important, and then have a plan in place as to when they are going to do it, if they can’t do it right now. Records should be kept quite diligently.”
He said vaccination dates can be adjusted if necessary, but children impacted by other illnesses definitely need their shots. Now that a single COVID-19 vaccination and testing centre has be set up at Westerner Park, hopefully time can be freed up for more appointments for children at Johnstone Crossing Community Health Clinic.
Unfortunately, public health staff will continue to be stretched when the bulk of the population are allowed to get the COVID vaccine. When the pandemic started, mammograms, colonoscopies and other routine health screenings were also being missed, Bouch said.
“(AHS) is trying to catch up to them now. They’re doing a pretty good job. But it’s hard to say how many cancers have been missed that could possibly be picked up early. I don’t think we’ll ever really know that.”