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The ‘new normal’: delivering childhood immunisations during the COVID-19 pandemic

02 September 2020
Volume 31 · Issue 9


Maintaining good coverage of childhood immunisations is vital. Dr Catherine Heffernan explains how practices in the London region are delivering a safe service to families

On 11 March 2020, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 could be characterised as a pandemic. This was due to the rapid increase in the number of cases outside China within two weeks, spreading through a growing number of countries (WHO, 2020a). This was followed by an announcement on 23 March 2020 from the UK Prime Minster that a national lockdown would commence, the easing of which began in June 2020 (Prime Minister's Office, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic placed enormous stress on the NHS and, similar to other European countries, health services had to reorganise (Tanne et al, 2020). Chronic and non-urgent care in hospital was suspended to increase the capacity of emergency and respiratory care. In primary care, changes in practice management and consultation strategies had to be quickly adapted. Remote triaging and delivering telephone and video consultations were adopted as the default position. Practices had to identify and prioritise support for the clinically extremely vulnerable, who were shielding, and for care home cohorts. They had to reorganise face-to-face consultations to minimise risk to themselves and to their patients using designated teams and facilities or premises (NHS England and NHS Improvement, 2020a; 2020b). All practices were expected to comply with Public Health England's (PHE) guidance on social distancing and infection control (PHE, 2020a). Studies showed that patients were consulting less frequently for health problems other than COVID-19, and there were concerns about the long-term implications for chronic care, psychological and socioeconomic wellbeing, and vulnerable people (Verhoeven et al, 2020; Losada-Baltar et al, 2020; Chung et al, 2020).

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