The latest update on childhood immunization every parent should know about.
What is vaccination? Vaccination introduces less harmful live, killed, or weakened forms of disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria or viruses, to our body to stimulate our immune system to produce antibodies that fight the organisms. Once vaccinated, our bodies remember this response, readily producing antibodies when we are exposed, especially to outbreaks of the diseases. Aside from prevention, new uses of vaccines are being researched, including for killing cancer cells. There are also new and different ways of getting immunized or inoculated. In the past, vaccines were only administered through painful injections. Some vaccines are now given through the mouth or nose.
Is vaccination safe? Vaccines are generally safe. However, like any other medicine, some vaccines may cause unwanted reactions like allergies to compounds present in the vaccine. Hypersensitive individuals ma have allergic reactions to influenza vaccines that use egg protein. Really serious reactions, like getting the disease you wanted to prevent in the first place, are rare.
Which vaccines should a child get? An Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) was set by our Department of Health (DOH) as part of the World Health Organization’s Universal Child Immunization goal. The EPI dictates inoculation against seven deadly childhood diseases tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, and measles. These vaccines are given free to children below 1 year in health clinics under the DOH. The EPI includes giving tetanus vaccine to child-bearing women to prevent neonatal tetanus.
For 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U. S. recommended nine additional vaccines for children below 6 years. The vaccines are:
Rotavirus, against rotavirus, the main cause of infantile diarrhea
Haemphilus influenza type b (Hib)
Pneumoccal, against Streptococcus pneumonia, which cause pneumonia
Seasonal influenza, given yearly
Varicella, against chickenpox
Meningococcal, against the meningococcus bacterium, which causes meningitis and septicaemia
Why are many shots given for a single disease? Vaccines like DPT (diphtheria pertussis-tetanus) and polio are given three times or in three doses to reach their maximum efficiency. Some, like measles, require booster doses years after the initial or last dose to “wake up” the immune system. As time passes, the immune system might have “forgotten” how to produce the needed antibodies against the targeted disease.
When should a child be vaccinated? In the EPI, two vaccines are to be given at birth: hepatitis B and BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin). Two additional doses of hepatitis B vaccine are given at the first and six months after birth. The BCG vaccine prevents serious tuberculosis infections like tuberculosis meningitis.The first doses of DPT and oral polio vaccines are given when the child is 6 weeks old; the second, four weeks after the first; and the third, four weeks after the second. The measles vaccine is given when the child reaches 9 months. Premature infants follow the same schedule as full-term babies.
If a scheduled vaccine is missed, can a child still be vaccinated? He can still be vaccinated, and the previous doses still count. Experts made the schedule as a guideline so children can be given the vaccine at the soonest possible time. The main aim of vaccination is prevention, and normally the sooner you can give that prevention, the better.
What happens right after vaccination? The child will feel nothing if he tolerated the procedure well. Minor reactions include pain and tenderness at the inoculation site. There may also be low-grade fever after a few hours, which will go down spontaneously. For pain and fever, the child may be given an analgesic and antipyretic like paracetamol.
Are there any contraindications in getting a vaccine? Generally, there are no contraindications that make giving the vaccine questionable. Exceptions are very few and two are temporary. Among them are:
Children with allergies to ingredients used in preparing the vaccines are naturally excluded.
Children with fever may defer getting their inoculation until the fever is gone.
Children with diarrhea have to postpone taking oral vaccines until their diarrhea is gone, as they may excrete part of the vaccine.
Vaccines are a cheap and sure way of preventing a serious disease. When considering vaccination, parents should weigh the proven benefits against the known risks in order to protect their children from serious and debilitating childhood illnesses.