The importance of vaccinations.

The human body is indeed an amazing living machine which has the capability to heal itself and fend off diseases naturally. However, there are certain types of pathogens that the body cannot protect itself against and this is where vaccines come to our rescue. Vaccination has been playing a crucial role in the healthy development of infants and young children all over the world. Some diseases that have been successfully been brought under control worldwide by use of vaccines include hepatitis, pertussis, tetanus, meningitis, as well as measles and chickenpox.

A vaccine is made up of a small amount of killed or weakened virus or bacteria. It prevents diseases, disability, and even death by stimulating a child’s immune system when it is introduced into the body.

 

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Mandatory vaccines

Since more than half a century ago, the Malaysian Ministry of Health has introduced an immunisation schedule which includes free  mandatory vaccines to prevent certain major childhood diseases. While all compulsory vaccines are provided free by the government, other optional vaccinations, which are now deemed just as important as well, are available in private medical establishments nationwide.

Disease Vaccines Age
Tuberculosis (TB)Tuberculosis is highly contagious and fatal. It could result in lung damage and the deadly TB meningitis. Tuberculosis may also give rise to bone disease. The BCG vaccine Given at birthAdministered again at the age of seven years if no BCG scar is detected from the birth time vaccine
Hepatitis B Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can lead to jaundice. If left untreated, it may even lead to liver cancer. A series of  three injections of Hepatitis B vaccine First dose administered at birth, followed by one at one month old and another at five months of age
DiphtheriaA dangerous disease that causes the obstruction of the airway and can lead to heart and brain damage. DTP vaccine
Pertussis (Whooping cough)Pertussis is characterized as severe, prolonged coughing fits that can cause infection to the lung and brain. At 2, 3 & 5 months; 1st booster shot at 18 months; 2nd booster shot at 6-7 years
Tetanus (Lockjaw)Muscle spasms that become so severe and may cause death.

 

Disease Vaccines Age
Poliomyelitis (Polio)Weakening of the muscles that can lead to paralysis of the legs. Polio vaccine which is given orally or included in the DTP vaccine
MeaslesHighly contagious, characterised by tiny red rashes, high fever, cough and in some cases, a
runny nose.
MMR vaccine
MumpsHighly infectious, causes swelling of the glands behind the jaws. Severe cases may cause sterility. Administered between 12 to 15 months of age and again at age seven
Rubella
(German Measles)Rubella may be passed by pregnant women to their babies, causing birth defects.
Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib)Inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), pneumonia, bronchitis, bacteraemia, ear infection, and epiglotitis. Hib vaccine Given at two, three and five months of age; given with DTP

 

Just as crucial: Optional vaccines

The Ministry of Health takes care of the afore-mentioned deadly diseases by providing free vaccinations. However, parents are highly encouraged to pay due attention to the optional vaccines which will be offered by their children’s doctors and seriously consider these vaccines.

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Table of Optional Vaccines

Vaccine Protects against… Caused by Number of shots When to administer
Varicella Chickenpox Varicella virus Two doses, at least a month apart After the age of one year
Pneumococcal vaccine Invasive pneumococcal disease Streptococcus pneumoniae Between ages one to four, to be determined by your doctor Two months to nine years of age
Meningcoccal A, C, Y, W-135 Meningitis Neisseria meningitidis Once every three to five years Above the age of two years. Highly encouraged for Hajj & Umrah pilgrimage
Cholera Cholera Vibrio cholerae Two to three oral doses From two years old
Typhoid Typhoid fever Salmonella typhy Once every three years Above two years of age
Hepatitis A Hepatitis A Hepatitis A virus Two, given 6 months apart Above two years of age
Influenza Influenza Influenza virus Every year apart Above six months of age
Rotavirus Gastroenteritis due to rotavirus Rotavirus Two to three doses as determined by your doctor From six weeks old
Japanese encephalitis Japanese encephalitis Flavivirus carried by culex mosquito Two to three doses as determined by your doctor Above 18 months, three doses

 

It would be a grave mistake to brazenly disregard the optional vaccines just because they are not included in the Government’s scheme of free vaccines. Calamity strikes without warning and many parents have found out the hard way that they should have paid more attention to the optional vaccines that were advocated by doctors. Most of the above are equally important as the free vaccines provided by the Ministry Of Health and may protect your children and family against avoidable suffering and the risk of serious health complications.

Remember, prevention is better than cure and it would be most unfortunate if the preventable was not prevented by something as simple as a vaccination. Talk to your doctor today!

Pneumococcal disease

May result in meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. In infants and children below two years of age, it can cause brain damage or even death.

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Rotavirus Immunisation – why it is important

Rotavirus is a virus that infects the gastrointestinal tract of young children before 5 years of age. This infection causes stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Babies and very young children with rotavirus infections can become dehydrated very quickly because the body loses water more quickly than it can be replaced. Most young children will end up being hospitalised for intravenous fluids to treat dehydration. In very young infants, rotavirus infection can lead to  life-threatening dehydration.

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Many people think that diarrhea is common in children and it isn’t something to worry about. Rotavirus infection, if uncontrolled, causes large epidemics of diarrhea and vomiting in babies and young children and with it, misery for the effected families.

Rotavirus spreads very easily and affects around 140,000 children every year in the US alone. In February 2012, there was a rotavirus outbreak in Northern Perak which led to over 3000 people being affected and even two deaths. Rotavirus is usually contracted though contamination from infected faces. Improper food handling or inadequate hygiene in childcare facilities can also lead to widespread outbreaks.

Rotavirus immunisation is the only effective method of preventing this devastating infection and in addition, it also reduces the number of hospitalisations and deaths due to rotavirus infection. In America, studies have shown that rotavirus-related hospital admissions for young children have been cut by more than two-thirds since the rotavirus vaccination was introduced. The World Health Organisation recommended in 2009 that all children globally be vaccinated against rotavirus.

The rotavirus vaccine is an oral vaccine which is given to infants in syrup form. There are two rotavirus vaccines available in the market. Both need to be given before 8 months of age. This is to protect the most vulnerable population, the young and newborn infants. The first dose is usually given at 6 weeks of age, along with other routine immunisations and subsequent doses are given every 1 – 2 months.

The rotavirus vaccine has not been shown to cause any side effects or long-term adverse effects. An earlier generation of vaccine for rotavirus was withdrawn because of concerns that it was associated with a bowel condition known as intussusceptions but the current vaccines have been widely used for many years and do not show any association with any adverse events.

While the rotavirus vaccine has not been made compulsory in Malaysia, it is widely available in private hospitals and clinics. The rotavirus vaccine presents the best hope for preventing severe rotavirus disease and the deadly dehydrating diarrhea that it causes. Discuss rotavirus Immunisation with your child’s doctor today.

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