You have just had your baby. However, as you leave the hospital and go back to the ‘real’ world, you soon realise that the things you as a parent are required to do suddenly seem endless. The phrase ‘so much to do, so little time to do it in’ suddenly becomes your everyday mantra.
At times is may seem overwhelming, but don’t fret. The key is to stop focusing on all you have to do and start focusing on one activity at a time. Taking little steps will get you to the finish line in no time. So first things first, let us focus on the importance of immunisation for your child.
So why exactly is vaccinating your child so important? In the past, before vaccinations were developed, diseases such as smallpox and polio threatened to be fatal to children of a community. However, since the development of vaccines, diseases such as smallpox have been eradicated and other infections such as polio have nearly been eliminated.
Vaccination is important for your child because it helps to protect them from certain infectious diseases and also prevents the spread of disease to other children. According to the Department of Health (DoH), your child should be vaccinated at birth, six weeks, 10 weeks, 14 weeks, 9 months, 18 months, 6 years and 12 years and this can be performed at all local clinics.
What are we vaccinating against?
If your child’s vaccination schedule is kept up to date, there are several vaccinations which your child will be protected against.
TB is a contagious infection that is spread by contact and that commonly affects the lungs. People with active TB often contaminate the air with bacteria when they cough or sneeze. These bacteria can stay in the air for several hours. If another person breathes the bacteria in, they may become infected. According to the DoH, TB kills about 3 million people worldwide, every year. It is important to vaccinate against TB because it is a leading infectious cause of deaths in adults, killing about 1.5 million people every year. The BCG vaccination (given to prevent TB) is given to more than 80% of the world’s children.
Polio is a highly contagious, viral infection that affects nerves and can produce permanent muscle weakness, paralysis and sometimes death. Polio is caused by a virus and is spread by digesting contaminated material.
According to the DoH, extensive vaccination has almost eradicated polio in developed countries, however cases still occur in regions with incomplete vaccination. The injectable polio vaccine given during childhood produces protection in more than 95% of recipients.
Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in children and spreads quickly and easily. According to the DoH, rotavirus infects nearly every child before their 5th birthday. Diarrhoea from rotavirus can quickly lead to dehydration. Dehydration can result in hospitalisation and even death for children who do not receive treatment in time.
It is important to vaccinate against rotavirus as, according to the DoH, approximately 6 children die every day from severe rotavirus in South Africa alone. The rotavirus vaccination is available at local clinics for all infants older than six weeks and younger than 24 weeks of age. However, it is important to note that this vaccine should not be administrated after 24 weeks.
Diphtheria is a contagious, sometimes fatal infection of the upper respiratory tract. The bacteria that cause diphtheria are usually spread in droplets of moisture coughed into the air. According to the DoH, Diphtheria is readily preventable by means of vaccination. The DoH further adds that the mortality rate in children younger than 5 who are not vaccinated, can be as high as 20%.
Tetanus results from a toxin produced by the anaerobic bacteria Clostridiumtetani. The toxin makes muscles become rigid and contract involuntarily. Tetanus bacteria may enter the body through wounds or skin punctures contaminated with soil or faeces.
According to the DoH, worldwide about 50% of people who have tetanus die and 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.
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Pertussis is a highly contagious infection caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, which results in fits of coughing that usually end in a prolonged, high-pitched, deeply indrawn breath (the whoop). According to the DoH, Complications of pertussis can include pneumonia, ear infections and, in rare instances, brain damage. Active immunisation is part of the standard childhood vaccination schedule.
Haemophilus influenzae type B
Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) can cause infection in the respiratory tract, which can spread to other organs. It spreads through the bloodstream and infects the joints, bones, lungs, skin, face, neck, eyes, urinary tract and other organs. These bacteria may cause two severe, often fatal infections: meningitis and epiglottitis. The bacteria are spread by an infected person sneezing or coughing respiratory droplets into the air, which are then inhaled by someone else.
According to the DoH, vaccines are available for children older than 6 weeks of age in South Africa and have decreased the incidence of serious infection by 99%.
Hepatitis B is generally more serious than hepatitis A and is occasionally fatal. Hepatitis B is also spread through contact with saliva, tears, breast milk and urine. A pregnant woman infected with hepatitis B can transmit the virus to her baby during birth.
According to the DoH, Hepatitis B becomes chronic in 5 to 7%of people. The vaccine can prevent chronic hepatitis B in more than 80% of cases.
Pneumococcal infections are caused by a gram-positive bacteria (pneumococcus).These bacteria are dispersed into the air when infected people cough or sneeze and are then inhaled by someone else. The most common infections caused by pneumococcus are pneumonia, meningitis, sinusitis and middle ear infections.
The DoH states that Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against bacterial infections such as ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia and meningitis.
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that is most common in children. It is spread mainly by airborne droplets of moisture coughed out by an infected person, or by touching items contaminated by such droplets. It is contagious for several days before and after the rash develops. According to the DoH, measles infects about 20 million people annually worldwide, causing about 200 000 deaths, primarily in children. Complications can be severe and include pneumonia, encephalitis (infection of the brain) and middle ear infections.
The DoH has released a revised childhood immunization schedule for parents to ensure that their child’s vaccinations are up to date.
According to this information, at birth the child should receive:
– BCG (Bacilles Calmette Guerin Vaccine)
– OPV (O) (Oral Polio Vaccine)
– OPV (1) (Oral Polio Vaccine)
– RV (1) (Rotavirus Vaccine)
– DTap-IPV//Hib (1) (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined),
– Heb B (1) (Hepatitis B Vaccine)
– PCV7 (1) (Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine)
At 10 weeks your child should receive:
– DTap-IPV//Hib (2) (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined)
– Heb B (2) (Hepatitis B Vaccine)
At 14 weeks your child should receive:
– RV (2) (Rotavirus Vaccine)
– DTap-IPV//Hib (3) (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined)
– Heb B (3) (Hepatitis B Vaccine Intramuscular)
– PCV7 (2) (Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine)
At 9 months your child should receive:
– Measles Vaccine (1)
– PCV7 (3) (Pneumococcal Conjugated vaccine)
At 18 months your child should receive:
– DTap-IPV//Hib (4) (Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis, Inactivated Polio Vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b Combined)
– Measles Vaccine (2)
At 6 years your child should receive:
– Td Vaccine Tetanus and reduced strength of diphtheria Vaccine
At 12 years your child should receive:
– Td Vaccine Tetanus and reduced strength of diphtheria Vaccine Intramuscular