A pediatrician in Turkey has urged families not to delay their children’s vaccinations as the novel coronavirus continues to spread among the young and old.

Dr. Ufuk Ozkaya told Anadolu Agency that immunization shots protected the health of children, as well as the wellbeing of society as a whole.

“Through the vaccine, some disease-causing microorganisms or proteins are injected into the body and we become immune to that microbe without infecting others,” said Ozkaya.

Underscoring the necessity of protecting children from infections during a pandemic, Ozkaya said parents must follow normal vaccination schedules.

Ozkaya noted that infectious diseases were “the main causes of diseases and deaths in children all over the world. It is possible to protect them against a large part of these infections via vaccinations.”

He added that many families tended to delay their children’s shots during the outbreak, calling on parents to act immediately to compensate for the time lost.

Though vaccination schedules vary by country, Ozkaya said children in Turkey were vaccinated as soon as they were born.

“Currently, we apply routine vaccinations in our country against tuberculosis, measles, rubella, mumps, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, varicella, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, Hemophilus influenza type b, pneumonia, and chickenpox. Besides, Rotavirus and meningitis vaccines are also available upon request,” he added.

Rebuffing claims against vaccinations, Ozkaya stressed that immunization did not cause autism in children.

“Causes of autism have been investigated with the frequent diagnoses over the years, and thiomersal (mercury) has been shown as a factor. It used to be present in some vaccines due to its antibacterial properties, but mercury has been removed from the vaccine content,” Ozkaya said.

“Unfortunately, there was no decrease in the occurrence of autism, and an increase in the number of patients with autism was observed.”

He added that the World Health Organization (WHO) reports indicated that the mercury compound in vaccines was not toxic in newborns or children.

Another pediatrician, Dr. Adnan Sari, also told Anadolu Agency vaccinations were the most effective methods of infectious disease prevention.

“Vaccines should be administered during childhood, the period with the highest likelihood of encountering diseases,” Sari added.

*Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara

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