Infant Vaccinations, Vaccination Schedule And Vaccine Side Effects

Infant Vaccinations offer protection against various infectious diseases. They are typically non-infectious particles of bacterial or viral matter or small amount of toxins produced by them during infections. In some cases, weakened forms of disease-causing organisms, which are rendered incapable of causing the disease, are also used. These materials, when introduced into the body, often by injections, cause the immune system to produce certain substances called antibodies, as a defensive mechanism against those infectious agents. This gives the body immunity against those specific diseases. Hence, immunization is another term used for vaccination.

Small pox has been successfully eradicated from the world by consolidated vaccination programs. Other common childhood infections such as measles, and polio, are also almost completely eliminated in most of the developed countries like the United States. In spite of these positive outcomes, it is essential to continue with the vaccination programs to prevent fresh outbreaks. As long as the infectious diseases remain active in certain undeveloped areas of the world, no one is truly safe, because of international travels which are very common today. The very high risk of the infection rapidly spreading through unimmunized children living in disease-free areas is a threat too big to ignore. Within the developed world too, certain pockets continue to harbor either active infections, or passive carriers, who continue to be reservoirs of the infectious agents.  Hence, medical practitioners continue with the vaccination efforts in developed countries too.

None of the vaccines can be considered hundred percent fool-proof, or completely free from vaccine side effects. Occasionally, the vaccines fail to produce sufficient immunity in some children. Some may develop certain adverse reaction to the vaccine. Fever, rashes, and pain at the site of injection are common, and usually resolve within a few days.  But rarely, certain dangerous vaccine side effects do occur.

OPV or oral polio vaccine contains a weakened form of the live polio virus and carries a very small risk of causing the polio disease itself, if the virus undergoes a mutation. It is known to happen in about one out of 2.4 million vaccinated children. However insignificant this figure may seem, it has made the doctors in the United States to go for a safer alternative called IPV or injectable polio vaccine, which contains inactivated virus, instead of live ones. Likewise, the DPT vaccine which contained whole-cell pertussis, is being replaced by DTaP vaccine containing acellular pertussis. DTaP  is considered safer as it lowers the risk of vaccine side effects. 3 out of every 10,000 children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella, are known to have developed fever induced seizures.  However, the media reports implicating MMR vaccine in the recent increase in the incidence of autism has been proven to be wrong. The safety of vaccines is a serious issue and continuous research and innovations are geared towards making them safer and more effective.

People may have genuine concerns and doubts regarding the safety of vaccines. The doctors are required to provide a Vaccine Information Statement with each vaccination to assuage the fears of parents. The benefits the child derives from vaccination against deadly diseases should be weighed against the potential risk of complications. To encourage people to take maximum advantage of the protection offered by the vaccines against dangerous diseases, the federal government has set up a Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Compensation is guaranteed to anyone permanently affected by negative reactions and vaccine side effects.

Most countries have a definite vaccination schedule, and the medical practitioners of the respective countries try to ensure maximum participation of the general public, to reduce the incidence of infectious diseases. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a vaccination schedule which is followed by the doctors. According to that schedule, hepatitis B vaccine is administered to the newborns while they are in the hospital itself. The ages for subsequent vaccinations are indicated, but they are more of a guideline, and not an absolute rule. One or two weeks’ difference in the schedule does not affect the effectiveness of the vaccine or the immunity gained by the child. Mild fever due to minor infections, or common cold, need not be a reason to postpone a scheduled vaccination. There are certain vaccines which are given only in select conditions.

When the child is taken to the doctor for a health check-up, a single vaccine or multiple vaccines may be administered. To avoid multiple injections, certain vaccine combinations are available as a single injection too. For example, the DPT vaccine is a combined vaccine which has been available for long, against three diseases, namely, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough. Now, Haemophilus influenzae  type b vaccines are also combined with the DPT to avoid one more injection. Combining these vaccines is not known to affect their efficacy or to cause any safety issues.

Here is the vaccination schedule recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch This Video About Vaccination:

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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