Of the many things that are the firsts for a child, vaccination tops the list. The initial few months after my first child’s birth were marked with frequent visits to the hospital, to tick off an item on the priority list. I guess more than my son, I would dread the vaccination days. I couldn’t see my child crying his gut out while he was given the vaccine. What followed next was even more painful. He had terrible pain on his thigh and a high temperature. Perhaps every mom goes through a similar phase, but vaccines are necessary to protect children against various diseases.
There are after-effects, but the importance of vaccines cannot be undermined as it prevents major illnesses and potentially harmful diseases in children. Thanks to vaccinations, some diseases such as polio and diphtheria are becoming rare.
So, how does vaccination help?
Vaccinations help develop the child’s immunity without having to experience the actual disease. The child acquires immunity through vaccines without falling sick, which makes it imperative for babies to take their scheduled shots.
The good part of vaccines is that most vaccines can be availed at subsidized rates in government hospitals.
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The government’s immunization program aims at providing vaccines for the following diseases:
1. BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin): This vaccine provides protection against tuberculosis. The immunity that this vaccine provides is temporary (up till the age of 15-20 years)
2. Oral Polio (OPV): Provides protection against polio.
- Age: One dose in the following months should be taken:
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 through 18 months
- 4 – 6 years
3. DPT: It is also called the DTaP shot. It provides immunity against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and whooping cough.
- Age: Should be taken at one-and–a-half, two-and-a-half, and three-and-a-half months. The second dose of DPT is given when the child turns one–and-a-half years old. Tetanus vaccine is repeated every ten years.
4. Hepatitis A: This vaccine protects the child against Hepatitis A.
- Age: The first dose is given between 12 and 23 months. The second dose is given between six and 18 months after the first dose.
5. Hepatitis B: This vaccine is given at birth and repeated at regular intervals at the end of six, ten, 12, and 24 weeks after birth.
6. Rotavirus: There are two types of rotavirus: RotaTeq and Rotarix. The vaccine for rotavirus is an oral one. It protects against rotavirus, prevents diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting.
- Age: The first dose is given at two months and the second dose at four months. For RotaTeq, the third dose should be given at six months.
7. MMR: This vaccine provides immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Age: The first dose is given at nine months and the second dose at 12-15 months
Your child will need multiple doses of the same vaccine for effective protection against all the diseases. So, it’s imperative to follow the immunization schedule strictly. It also helps the government in cutting down health-related costs.
There are vaccines that are marked as optional in the immunization schedules. You can opt them depending on your budget and other factors. The optional vaccines protect against the following diseases:
1. Pneumococcus: This vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease, a serious infection and also prevents your child from developing pneumococcal meningitis and pneumonia.
- Age: One dose at each of the following ages:
- two months, four month, ssix months
- Between 12 and 15 months
2. Chickenpox (Varicella vaccine)
- Age: One dose at each of the following ages:
- 12 through 15 months
- four through six years
3. Meningococcal: Provides protection against meningitis
- Age: Preteens and teens at 11 to 12 years old with a booster dose at 16
4. Influenza (flu vaccine)
- Age: From six months and it should be taken every year. You can go for two doses for maximum protection.
In several countries, diseases such as smallpox are eradicated. However, doctors still recommend parents to get their children vaccinated, falling which there is a high chance of infectious diseases spreading.
Having said that, public health experts state that a strict follow-up is required to prevent the recurrence of the diseases that could cause an epidemic. The market always has an influx of new vaccines, and most often these vaccines are available for the same disease.
The parents may be offered two different vaccines or a combination of vaccines for the same disease. For example, MMR vaccine for mumps, measles, and rotavirus
The combination vaccines can have a different number of dosages, side effects, and price. However, the effectiveness of these vaccines does not differ. Irrespective of a single vaccine or a combination of vaccines, your child has the same protection against the disease.
If the parents from all classes realize the importance of vaccinations and get their children vaccinated, perhaps the prevalence of diseases and rate of death under five years will reduce.
We need to vaccinate not just to protect our children, but even to protect our future generation as it helps in spreading diseases from one child to another.
Remember to discuss with your doctor before you get your child vaccinated.
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