Introduction: In Canada, the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted many routine health services, placed additional strain on the health care system, and resulted in many Canadians being either unable or unwilling to attend routine immunization appointments . We sought to capture and synthesize information about changes to routine immunization programs in response to the pandemic and plans to catch-up any missed immunizations .
Methods: Provincial/territorial (P/T) public health leaders were interviewed via teleconference between August-October 2020 to collect information on the following topics: how routine immunization delivery was affected during and after initial lockdown periods, plans to catch-up missed doses, and major challenges and achievements in continuing routine immunization programs . Data were coded and categorized according to common responses and descriptive analysis was performed .
Results: Interviews occurred with participants from 11 of 13 P/Ts . School immunization programs were reported to be most negatively affected by the pandemic (n=9). In the early pandemic period, infant, preschool, and maternal/prenatal programs were prioritized, with most P/Ts continuing these services with adaptations for COVID-19 . After the initial lockdown period, all routine programs were continuing with adaptations in most P/Ts . Infant, preschool, and school programs were most often targeted for catch-up through measures such as appointment rebooking and making additional clinics and/or providers available . Major challenges included resource limitations (e.g., staff shortages, PPE shortages, limited infrastructure) (n=11), public health restrictions (n=8), and public hesitancy to attend appointments (n=5).
Conclusions: Canadian routine immunization programs faced some disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the school, adult, and older adult programs . Further research is needed to determine the measurable impact of the pandemic on routine vaccine coverage levels.