Hey there! So lately, I`ve been working on a project that requires that I visit local hospitals where I volunteer to teach nursing mothers the best ways to take care of their bundles of joy. Last week, we talked about the importance of getting their babies vaccinated. We also talked about the vaccines that every child must get. I’ll share some of the things I told them, but first, let’s get familiar with vaccines and vaccination.
What Exactly Are Vaccines?
Good question! In the simplest terms, vaccines are biological preparations that help the body to build its immunity against infections. Also known as immunizations, a vaccine is a small amount of a weakened or killed virus which is injected into the body in order to prevent an infection by the same virus.
What Happens When you Get Vaccinated?
Literarily, when someone gets immunized or vaccinated, this weakened form of a virus or bacteria is injected into such person’s body system. The presence of the weakened virus triggers the body’s immune system to release what is known as antibodies. These antibodies fight and destroy the weakened virus, thereby improving the body’s immunity to the virus in question.
The implication of this is that if such a person ever gets exposed to the actual virus or bacteria, the body’s immune system is already prepared to fight the infection. Usually, vaccines or immunizations prevent a disease/ infection or reduce its severity. Since vaccines are weakened strains of a virus, there may be a brief illness experienced after getting vaccinated but this is nothing to worry about. It is simply the effect of the body’s antibodies fighting the weakened virus.
Why the Bother?
Many of the women I spoke with were eager to know why vaccines are so important. Of course, they didn’t like the idea of introducing a virus, weakened or not, into their newborn’s system. I`m sure that just like the women; you would like to know why it is necessary to get immunized.
The most important reason for vaccination is disease prevention. Vaccines protect, children especially, from communicable diseases and other epidemics. Of course, you know that children and newborns have quite delicate systems and can be easily infected by viruses and other disease-causing organisms. Common infections that vaccines help to prevent are polio, measles, whooping cough.
Without a doubt, it is important to get children vaccinated. However, it is even more important to know the vaccines that children need to get and the most appropriate ages for administering these vaccines. Here are five important vaccines that should be administered on every child. Let’s get talking!
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Also known as Hep B, the Hepatitis B vaccine is usually given as a set of three injections. The first injection is usually given shortly after the child is born. The next is administered around 1-2 months after birth, while the last injection is given when the child is about 6-18 months old.
This vaccine is particularly important because it builds the child’s immunity against the Hepatitis infection. The Hepatitis virus affects the liver and can lead to more complex medical conditions such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Administering the vaccine on newborns gives them long-term immunity against the hepatitis virus. It further reduces their risk of having other related conditions like liver cancer and liver cirrhosis.
Possible Side Effects?
Children who receive this vaccine may suffer slight feverish conditions. Issues such as soreness or redness around the injection area may also arise. However, experts suggest that children who weigh less than 4 pounds at birth should not be given the Hep B vaccine immediately after they are born. For such babies, the first dose of the injection should be administered when they are a month old.
Also, children with severe allergies or babies who are extremely ill cannot be given the Hep B vaccine.
Measles, Mumps Rubella Vaccine (MMR Vaccine)
This 3-in-1 vaccine is usually administered to children to protect them from measles, mumps, and rubella. These conditions are severe and could hinder the growth and development of a child. Measles is a respiratory infection that is highly infectious and contagious. Mumps and rubella (German measles) are also highly contagious infections that usually affect children.
The MMR vaccine is usually administered in two sets. The first dose is given when the child is 12 to 15 months of age, while the second vaccine is given at 18 months. It may also be administered when the child is aged between 4 to 6 years; that is before the child begins schooling.
In some instances, the MMR vaccine is combined with the chicken pox vaccine. This is referred to as the MMRV vaccine. The MMR vaccine can also be administered early; that is before the child gets to the already stated age. This may occur when one is traveling to a measles-prone area or an area where a measles outbreak has recently occurred.
Definitely! Children may suffer a slight fever or skin rashes for three days or more after the administration of the MMR vaccine.
Polio is the most common condition that affects children. It is a communicable disease that can be spread through contact with infected surfaces, food or drink. Polio can lead to paralysis or death of the patient. To prevent this, it is important that children are vaccinated to prevent this condition. The polio vaccine is referred to as the “Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV)”, and it is administered through injections. The first dose of the polio vaccine is given when a child is 2 months old. The next is administered when the child gets to 4 months of age. The third dose is given at 6 to 18 months, while the final dose is administered at age 4 to 6. This is usually termed the “booster dose”.
Children may experience pain or redness around the area where the injection is given. Apart from these, other side effects are rare.
Influenza, usually referred to as flu, is a respiratory condition that is caused by the influenza virus. This viral outbreak usually happens annually in a number of countries. As such, it is important to protect your newborn from this infection.
The influenza vaccine is usually administered yearly. For babies aged 6 months, two doses of the vaccines are administered at first, within a four-week interval. After this, they`ll require a dose of the vaccine every year. The vaccine is usually administered between October and mid-November. It is important to note that the influenza vaccine cannot be administered to children who are younger than 6 months. The vaccine is administered through a nasal spray or injection.
Side effects such as mild fever and mild soreness around the injection area may occur.
This vaccine is usually given to build the child’s immunity against Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis. Diphtheria is a severe infection that can cause cardiac failure and death in infants. Tetanus causes severe muscle spasms and can consequently lead to death. Pertussis is whooping cough. This condition causes severe coughing that can stop a child from eating, drinking and breathing. If this condition is not properly managed, it can lead to pneumonia, convulsion or brain damage.
The DTaP vaccine is given in a series of 5 shots. The first shot is administered when the child is 2 months old and the final one is given when the child is about 4 to 6 years of age. There are no serious side effects for this vaccine.
I had a super interesting discussion with the women. Many of them promised to visit their local health care providers to get their babies vaccinated. I’m so glad I could be of help to them. Now, you know why vaccines are important and the vaccines every child should get. Be sure to spread the word: tell someone today!