Health care workers must be protected while vaccinating during the COVID-19 pandemic

Vaccination efforts

During Vaccination Week in the Americas, PAHO urges countries to ensure the implementation of strict hygiene measures at vaccination services, and that these are kept from separate to other health care services during the pandemic.

April 29, 2020, Washington, DC (PAHO/WHO) – Health authorities should take specific steps to protect health care workers and communities during essential immunization activities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, say experts at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).

This recommendation comes following a call for countries to continue essential immunization activities wherever possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, to prevent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. “Countries must do everything possible to ensure they are not facing multiple epidemics at once,” said Cuauhtemoc Ruis Matus, Head of the Comprehensive Family Immunization Program at PAHO.

In order to protect communities and health care workers during these vaccination programs, PAHO is calling on countries to ensure that all health care workers are vaccinated against seasonal influenza, as well as any other routine immunizations they might be missing. “Making sure health care workers are vaccinated not only helps keep them healthy, it also helps stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases in the communities they serve,” said Andres de Francisco, Director of the Family, Health Promotion and Life Course Department at PAHO.

Measures to take during vaccination

In addition to making sure health care workers are vaccinated against influenza and other vaccine-preventable diseases, PAHO is also recommending that health care services that offer vaccination services implement the following recommendations:

  • Offering vaccination services outside or in a well-ventilated area
  • Keeping vaccination services separate from other health services, to help keep people who are ill and those who do not have symptoms apart
  • Frequently disinfecting the vaccination area
  • Limiting the number of people who accompany the patient to be vaccinated to one person
  • Ensuring hand sanitizer or hand washing units with chlorinated water are available for the public at the entrance to the facility
  • Establishing exclusive vaccination sessions for at-risk groups, such as  older people, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing medical conditions
  • Scheduling immunization appointments or offering small but frequent immunization sessions to limit crowded waiting rooms

PAHO also recommends that health care workers take steps to protect themselves and their patients while vaccinating. These include:

  • Practicing good hand hygiene often
  • Complying with uniform guidelines
  • Clean your phone properly and don´t use it around patients
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • If you have COVID-19 symptoms, isolate yourself and contact your health care provider. Do not go to work

About Vaccination Week in the Americas

Vaccination Week in the Americas (VWA) is celebrated this year from 25 April to 2 May 2020. It has been promoted by PAHO since 2003 with the goal of raising awareness of the benefits of vaccines to protect people. More than 806 million people around the Americas have been vaccinated as part of VWA, with many countries focusing on vaccination events in remote areas or among populations with limited access to health services.