I want to protect my children


Mirla Viken (8 years old) received both DTP and MMR in Amsterdam East. The national immunization program protects against twelve infectious diseases that can lead to serious illness or death.Dingena Mol . sculpture

They stood in line for about an hour on Monday: Isild Feiken (13 years old), Sister Mirla (about 9 years old) and Mother Edmée. While they were still waiting on the street, they had to put up with the wrath of a passerby. The woman warned the children and their parents about the “medical experiment” that would take place during the vaccination at Alderman Verhegal in the East. The three remained conservative. “I want to protect my children from infectious diseases,” says the mother, who has to come in to get a signature to share data with RIVM.

For Isild, the “reward” for the long wait is a preventive injection against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which, according to figures from the RIVM, annually causes 1,100 cancer diagnoses in women and 400 in men. It concerns various types of cancer in the mouth, throat, cervix, labia or penis. The virus is transmitted through sex, hands, skin, and mouth.

Two more shots await Mirla: one against diphtheria, tetanus and polio (DTP) and one against mumps, measles, and rubella (MMR). The pain after the injection is not so bad, although Mirla will have to sit for a while because of the spots in front of the eyes. “I think I can go to school tomorrow,” she says. “And I hope I don’t have too much muscle pain so I can keep my books. I like to read a lot.”

Doubts about the Corona vaccine

Amsterdam’s infant vaccination rate has fallen below the target of 90 per cent during the pandemic and is lagging behind the Dutch average. This has several reasons. Because of the pandemic, GGD has seen fewer children, resulting in fewer vaccinations or later. Major staple days in the gyms – which will run through the end of the month – also haven’t happened during the pandemic.

Doubts about the Corona vaccine and the closures also spread to the institute’s national vaccination program; Injections against “ordinary” infectious diseases. To prevent mixing, Vaccination Day in the East is only for the National Vaccination Program. So there are no corona pricks.

The drop in vaccination coverage worries Astrid Neelen, as it increases the chance of an infectious disease outbreak. Nielen is a physician and strategic medical advisor for GGD Amsterdam. What also worries her is the increased efforts GGD will have to make to reach all parents and children. “It takes more and more for our organization to be able to connect at all and remove any doubts.”

poor reading and writing

The usual information about the national vaccination program passes through the RIVM with an official letter, but GGD Amsterdam also sent a letter of its own. It’s shorter and simpler in Dutch, because one in five Amsterdam parents learn to read and write. The simpler the message, the better.

Since this year, the invitation letter from GGD Amsterdam in Nieuw-West is now available in six languages, including Turkish, Arabic and English. An additional option for a Nieuw-West pilot: Using their smartphone’s camera, the Amsterdam Passer can scan a QR code on the letter and view and listen to the information in six languages. Communication in foreign languages ​​has not been popular in recent years, but it is happening this year, in part due to lower vaccination rates.

If it is up to GGD Amsterdam, there will also be trials with vaccines over the weekends. After all, working parents now have to take time off, and not everyone is able to do this. The fact that weekend vaccinations don’t really take off is up to the Royal Institute of Public Health. Refrigerated vaccines can only be delivered during working days. Solutions are being sought.

sexual transmission

As with corona vaccination, the vaccination rate in Amsterdam varies greatly from region to region. Center and South score high, New West and Southeast score low. In 2021, for example, only 11 percent of girls with Moroccan or Turkish immigrant backgrounds—mostly living in the New West—received an HPV injection, compared to 65 percent of the group without an immigrant background. Because of sexual transmission, vaccination against HPV is sensitive in Islamic culture. Another factor contributing to the lack of vaccination coverage is a combination of mistrust of government authorities, ignorance and ignorance.

In order to reduce variation in vaccination coverage and disease burden, Amsterdam invests unevenly in equal opportunity. In concrete terms: GGD deploys more staff in the Southeast and Southwest than in the Center and South. The Southeast has three for every two young health workers in the South.

Does this also lead to results? It’s too early to say that now. Only when all the days of the injections are over and the RIVM finishes counting the next year will it become clear whether the vaccination rate has increased slightly. Nielen stresses that not having a missed vaccination isn’t definitive. “Children can always have their vaccinations up to the age of eighteen. For free, for your health and the health of others.”

Influenza Vaccine for Pregnant Women

From 2023, the national vaccination program will be expanded with influenza vaccine for pregnant women. Women who are pregnant for 22 weeks or more during influenza season are eligible for influenza virus vaccination. This reduces the risk of infection for the mother and the infant. The flu can be dangerous in children and pregnant women. In 2024, the national vaccination program will be further expanded with the vaccination against rotavirus, which causes gastroenteritis. Each year, about 3,600 children are hospitalized with rotavirus.

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