Interim guidance on continuity of immunization programs during the COVID-19 pandemic
Government of Canada
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Preamble: As a public health emergency of international concern, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic (caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus) has already impacted many aspects of healthcare delivery. Within Canada, all provinces and territories have initiated a range of public health measures to mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and reduce the impact of the outbreak on healthcare systems; in some cases, this includes deferral of non-essential medical visits. Immunizations, particularly in infants and toddlers, are essential. If capacity is not sufficient to maintain all routine programs, emphasis should be put on the primary series and booster doses for children aged less than two years. Disruption of immunization services, even for short periods, will result in an accumulation of susceptible individuals, and a higher likelihood of vaccine-preventable disease (VPD) outbreaks. Such outbreaks may result in VPD-related deaths and an increased burden on healthcare systems already strained by the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, once COVID-19 public health measures are relaxed and international borders are re-opened, risk for VPDs may increase as people start to travel or congregate again in settings where diseases are readily transmitted.