Growing up with vaccines

24.1.2020 | 1100 words - 5 min read

What you need to know about vaccinations

Why vaccinate?

“Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective means to help children grow into healthy adults”. - World Health Organization

On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages. Vaccinating your baby ensures that their bodies develop its own immune response to that particular disease. This means that if he is later exposed to the disease, the body has already got its defence ready to protect him.

Vaccination facts:

• 1 in 5 children worldwide are still not receiving the vaccines he or she needs.

• 1 child still dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine preventable infectious disease.

• Vaccines safe 2 – 3 million children each year.

• 10+ vaccines are recommended to protect children – 1 single vaccine (DtaP/IPV/Hib) prevents 5 diseases: Diptheria, Tetanus, Whooping cough, Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b

• Vaccines eradicated smallpox worldwide for more than 30 years.

• Vaccines are safe. As a result of medical research vaccinations are getting safer and more effective all the time.

• The 4 deadliest vaccine-preventable diseases are:

  1. Measles
  2. Heamophilus influenza type b
  3. Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
  4. Neonatal tetanus

• The key to prevention is herd immunity – If MOST get vaccinated, spreading is contained. Vaccinations prevent the spread of disease within the community.

Here is an outline of some of the vaccines and the serious vaccine-preventable diseases:

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine

DTaP vaccine protects against three serious diseases:

Diphtheria is a serious infection that causes a thick covering in the back of the nose or throat. It can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death.

Why vaccinate?

Diphtheria is readily preventable by means of vaccination. In children younger than 5 who are not vaccinated, the mortality rate can be as high as 20%.

Tetanus or lockjaw is a potentially deadly infection that causes painful muscle stiffness and lockjaw.

Why vaccinate?

Worldwide, about 50% of people who have tetanus die. Preventing tetanus is far better than treating tetanus. Tetanus rarely develops in people who have completed a primary series of tetanus vaccinations and have had vaccinations every 10 years as recommended.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious disease known for uncontrollable, violent coughing that often makes it hard to breathe. It can be deadly for babies.

Why vaccinate?

Complications of pertussis can include pneumonia, ear infections and in rare instances brain damage. Active immunisation is part of the standard childhood vaccination schedule.

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against three serious diseases:

The measles virus can cause a fever that can get very high, a distinctive rash, cough, runny nose, and red eyes. Sometimes, it can also cause diarrhea and ear infection. It can also lead to pneumonia (infection in the lungs), brain damage, deafness, and death.

Why vaccinate?

Worldwide, measles infects about 20 million people annually, causing about 200 000 deaths, primarily in children. Complications can be severe and include pneumonia, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and middle ear infections. Mumps typically starts with a fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Then, most people’s salivary glands swell, which causes puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw.

Why vaccinate?

Mumps is pretty mild in most people but can sometimes cause lasting problems, such as deafness, meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord), and swelling of the brain, testicles, ovaries, or breasts. Rubella may cause a rash or fever, but many people have no symptoms.

Why vaccinate?

Rubella can cause miscarriage or serious birth defects in a developing baby if a woman is infected while she is pregnant. Infected children can spread rubella to pregnant women.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

Hib vaccine protects against Hib disease, which ranges from mild ear infections to serious bloodstream infections, pneumonia (infection in the lungs), and meningitis (infection of the covering around the brain and spinal cord).

Why vaccinate?

Vaccines are available for children older than 6 weeks of age in South Africa and have decreased the incidence of serious infection by 99%. Hib disease can cause brain damage, hearing loss, or even death.

Polio (IPV) vaccine

IPV vaccine protects against polio, a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that can invade the brain and spinal cord.

Why vaccinate?

Polio can cause lifelong paralysis and even death. Extensive vaccination has almost eradicated polio in developed countries. However, cases still occur in regions with incomplete vaccination such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. The injectable polio vaccine given during childhood produces protection in more than 95% of recipients.

Rotavirus (RV) vaccine

RV vaccine protects against a contagious virus that causes severe diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain, requiring hospitalisation. It is most common in infants and young children. Adults who get rotavirus tend to have milder symptoms.

Why vaccinate?

In South Africa approximately 6 children die every day from severe rotavirus. Worldwide, approximately 600 000 children die each year from rotavirus.

Vaccines, like any medication, can cause side effects. The most common side effects are mild and the likelihood of these side effects have reduced dramatically within the last couple of years, due to newer and better vaccinations. However, many vaccine-preventable disease symptoms can be serious, or even deadly– and vaccination is the best way to prevent them.

Here is an outline of visits and vaccinations needed at your medical centre schedule. Talk to your doctor and child’s doctor about which vaccines they recommend.

Sources: Department of Health (South Africa), WHO, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention