Immunization Should Continue Amid Pandemic: Health Ministry
Jakarta. A recent study by the Health Ministry and the United Nations Children's Fund found that 84 percent of immunization services in Indonesia have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The majority of the services were supposed to be provided by community health centers (Puskesmas) and integrated healthcare and family planning posts (Posyandu).
According to the study, 64 percent of Posyandu across the country have closed, and 36 percent provide only limited services.
Meanwhile, 32 percent of Puskesmas have closed, and 68 percent provide limited services.
"Immunization must continue amid the coronavirus pandemic," the Health Ministry's surveillance and quarantine director, Vensya Sitohang, said on Tuesday.
Vensya said postponing routine vaccinations can increase the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases in children.
In March, the Health Ministry recorded a 4.9 percent drop in measles-rubella vaccinations and complete basic immunizations (IDL) compared to last year.
In April, the number dropped again by 19.7 percent.
Declining vaccination rate will weaken herd immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases, Vensya said.
"It's crucial that we keep immunization going. We don't want another pandemic to occur after Covid-19," she said in an online discussion.
However, Vensya added, immunization services must follow the Covid-19 health protocol, including physical distancing guidelines.
"Immunization services in Puskesmas, Posyandu and from mobile health services must follow local health protocol. Health workers must work together with the regional Covid-19 task force and village officials," Vensya said.
Health workers will be responsible for tracking infants and children under the age of two who have not completed their mandatory immunizations.
Indonesian Pediatricians Association (IDAI) secretary Catherine Sambo said several immunizations cannot be postponed, including ones for the hepatitis B vaccine and oral polio vaccine (OPV).
"At one month, an infant will require the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis. At two to four months, they will need to get the pentavalent vaccine and oral polio vaccine," Catherine said.
She said infants must get the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) at four months, measles-rubella vaccine (MR1) at nine months and pentavalent 4, oral polio (OPV4) and measles-rubella (MR2) vaccines at 18 months.
Catherine said several health facilities in Indonesia now also provide vaccinations to prevent severe pneumonia and Japanese encephalitis.
"Many parents hesitate to bring their children to hospitals or other health facilities to get vaccinated because they're afraid of catching Covid-19, but immunization can't wait. Parents should make sure their children receive vaccinations on schedule despite the pandemic," she said.