Vaccination for Kids: Here’s everything you need to know about immunization amidst lockdown

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Right from what is a vaccine, how does it work, what are the side effects to myths and apprehensions, here are all details of vaccination for kids.

During these uncertain times, as the COVID – 19 pandemic ails the world, it is crucial for us to protect our children the best possible way we can. The early years, especially the first five years of life are very important for building an individual’s health. Immunization is a simple and effective way of protecting children from serious diseases. It not only helps protect individuals, but it also protects the broader community by minimizing the spread of disease. Most of a child’s vaccinations are completed between birth and the first five years. Numerous vaccines are given more than once, at different ages, and in combinations. 

Considering the lockdown and pandemic, while parents could delay the doses of vaccinations but of course, primary vaccinations given to infants/ newborns cannot be avoided at any cost. Therefore, all important vaccinations mentioned by IAP and in the schedule must be given especially to newborn babies. The primary vaccinations within the first four months after birth are extremely important. These are DPT, HIB, Polio, Hepatitis B, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines, usually given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks after birth.

What are the vaccines?

Vaccination or immunization is one of the most effective ways to prevent diseases. A vaccine or immunization is a way to build the body’s natural immunity to a disease before the individual gets sick. This acts as a protective shield and helps to keep various ailments and diseases under check. In simple words, Vaccination is a very safe prevention tool as a precaution is always better than cure. However, no medication can ever be 100% safe. Vaccines protect against more than 25 debilitating or life-threatening diseases, including measles, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, influenza, tetanus, typhoid and cervical cancer.

How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine is a dead, or weakened form, or part of the germ or antibody that causes the disease in question. When children are exposed to a disease in vaccine form through a shot in the arm or leg, their immune system, which is the body’s germ-fighting mechanism, builds up antibodies that protect them from contracting the disease if and when they are exposed to the actual disease. Vaccines work by triggering the immune system to fight against certain diseases. If an immunized person comes in contact with these diseases, their immune system is able to respond more effectively, preventing the disease from developing or greatly reducing its severity.

Is there a need for vaccination?

Vaccines are as important to the overall health of an individual as diet and exercise, as they keep one healthy and safe. The government of India as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) consider childhood vaccinations as a priority. Vaccines are recommended for infants, children, teenagers, and adults. The WHO publishes a list of what vaccines are needed, and at what age they should be given. Some of these are administered in a series of shots. 

Immunization is essential to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Vaccines are especially important for at-risk populations such as young children and older adults. The ACIP (advisory committee on immunization practices) offers vaccination recommendations, immunization schedules, and information on disease-specific vaccines. 

Keeping track of immunizations

Maintaining an updated record of the child’s vaccination is key to safeguarding the child.  Even though most parents and doctors do a good job of keeping up with the immunizations, sometimes a vaccination is missed when a child is sick. No matter what the reason is, it is important to make up missed immunizations. If a child has missed an immunization, the parent doesn’t have to go back and start over for most vaccines. The previous immunizations are still good. 

The attending doctor will just resume the immunization schedule. If for any reason, a child receives additional doses of a vaccine, this is also not a concern, although the child will still need any future doses according to the recommended schedule.  

Are there side effects to vaccines?

Over the years, vaccines have generated some controversy and apprehension in the minds of parents over the safety, but no convincing evidence of harm has been found. And although children can have a reaction to any vaccine, the important thing to know is that the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the possible side effects.

There can be some side effects after the child gets a vaccine, they are usually mild. Side effects include redness or swelling at the injection site, some children develop a low-grade fever. These symptoms usually go away within a day or two and shouldn’t be a cause of worry. More serious side effects have been reported, but are rare.

It takes years of development and testing before a vaccine is approved as safe and effective. Scientists and doctors study the research and result before approving a vaccine. They also inspect places where the vaccines are produced to make sure all rules are being followed. Time and again, history has proved that vaccines are safe and the benefits of their use far outweigh any risks of side effects.

Myths and Apprehensions about Vaccination

There have been many misunderstandings about vaccines. There are myths and misleading statements that spread on the internet about vaccines. Here are answers to some of the most common misconceptions about vaccines.

Vaccines do not cause autism.

Vaccines are not too much for an infant’s immune system to handle.

Vaccines do not contain toxins that will harm you.

Vaccines do not cause the diseases they are meant to prevent.

Final tips on immunizations

Keep this information in mind to help your child’s immunizations go more smoothly. Common side effects of immunizations include swelling at the site of the injection, soreness, and fever. Discuss these side effects with your doctor and ask what symptoms deserve an office call. Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have, and they have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.

By Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant, Paediatrician & Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Sarjapur, Bangalore

ALSO READ: Parenting Tips: 5 ways to handle kindergarten kids at home during quarantine time

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