There are plenty of germs around us!\u00a0The germs are present both in the environment and in our bodies. If a person is susceptible and encounters a harmful organism, it can potentially lead to diseases and death. This is where vaccines play an important role! What Is A Vaccine? Image credit: Freepik Vaccine is a biological substance that has been developed to protect humans from a particular pathogen such as virus, bacteria, parasites, fungus, or any other microorganism that can cause disease. In short, vaccines minimise the risks of having a disease by working with your body\u2019s natural defences to build up immunity.\u00a0 Vaccines are also known as immunisations because they take advantage of the capacity of our normal immune system to prevent infectious diseases. Your immune system reacts when you get a vaccine!\u00a0 The vaccines will help the body to remember the germ and fight back if the germ tries to invade the body again. It also helps to protect and prevent infants, children and teenagers from severe illnesses. It is better if parents are able to get vaccines for their children while they are still an infant. Having childhood vaccines ensures that your child will develop immunity (protection) against disease BEFORE the germs come into contact with your child, which is what we are striving for! How Do Vaccines Work? Image Credit: WHO The role of vaccination is to activate the body's immune response to produce antibodies which are proteins that combat specific pathogens, exactly as\u00a0if you were exposed to the disease.\u00a0\u00a0 After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to the disease without having to get the disease first. This is what makes vaccines such powerful and potent medicine. Unlike most medications that treat or cure diseases, vaccines help to prevent\u00a0diseases. For example, it is unlikely that a person who had chickenpox as a child would experience it again, even though he or she is in close contact with a person who is infected. This approach protects the individual from the development of the disease, potentially for life. Let's shed some light on the new National Immunisation Programme For Infants and Children Image Credit: specialty.mims.com Parents are still very cautious about the vaccination of children as more and more new vaccinations become available and understandably so! With the ever-increasing amount of vaccinations needed to completely immunise the child against all vaccine-preventable diseases, there is a great need to simplify the administration of existing vaccines. The National Immunisation Program (NIP) is a government initiative to curb the spread of infectious diseases.\u00a0 The Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) initiated the NIP in the 1950s by providing free vaccination services to children in Malaysia. The aim of this initiative is to ensure that immunisation provides complete and optimal protection for children in Malaysia. Improvements have been made from time to time since the introduction of the NIP. Did You Know? This year, MOH has again strengthened the NIP by introducing a hexavalent combination of DTaP-IPV-HiB-HepB vaccine and a pneumococcal vaccine as well as a new immunisation schedule. Implementation began as early as November 2020 and will be carried out in stages, depending on the availability of this vaccine at MOH health facilities. This means that the 6-in-1 hexavalent vaccine will now be available at all MoH health facilities across the country.\u00a0 Take a look at the new immunisation schedules! New Immunisation Schedules The new National Immunisation Schedule with the hexavalent combination vaccine to prevent six diseases \u2014 diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b \u2014 has reduced the number of shots required from seven to five. The schedule no longer lists vaccination at one and six months of age. Image Credit: MOH So, What Is The New 6-in-1 Hexavalent Vaccine? Image Credit: Bernama MOH will use the hexavalent combination vaccine in the National Immunisation Programme which includes Hepatitis B \u2014 protected against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP-IPV-HepB-Hib) \u2014 where four doses will be given to children aged two months, three months, five months and 18 months. (The shot at age 18 months is a booster dose). A single injection each visit will provide immunity against six major preventable childhood diseases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistic show that 49 countries in the world have added the hexavalent vaccines to their respective NIPs. Changing from pentavalent to the hexavalent vaccine is a good step forward in line with developments in other developed countries. Previously, the hexavalent vaccine was only available in private healthcare facilities. Now, the government has now made this available free of charge to all children in Malaysia! Here are some facts that you need to know! The Six Diseases Prevented By the 6-In-1 Vaccine Diphtheria -\u00a0 An infection of the throat and nose that can cause breathing difficulties, heart failure, paralysis and death. Tetanus - An infection of the nervous system that can cause muscle cramps especially in the jaw and neck and which often cause death. Pertusis (Whooping cough) - An infection of the respiratory tract that can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain inflammation and can also cause death. Poliomyelitis - An infection of the nervous system that can cause permanent paralysis and can be fatal. Hepatitis B\u00a0 - An infection of the liver that can cause severe liver damage and lead to liver cancer. Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - An infection that causes inflammation of the lining of the brain, bacterial infections in the blood and pneumonia and which can be fatal. Is the 6-in-1 hexavalent vaccine safe for children? The 6-in-1 vaccine is very safe to use. Malaysia\u2019s Health Ministry also stated that large-scale clinical trials and studies have shown the efficacy and safety of the hexavalent vaccine with no adverse side effects reported. There are also several side effects of the vaccine. While it is normal for babies to be mildly irritable after injection, they may also have short-lived redness, swelling and a small bump at the injection site. What are the benefits of the hexavalent vaccine? \tProtects your child against 6 life-threatening diseases with 1 single injection. \tFewer shots from 7 injections to 5 injections which mean fewer crying episodes! \tLess stress and discomfort for both the child and the parent. \tSaves time with a more simplified vaccination schedule. \tMore time to assess a child's growth. \tUp-to-date with the on-time vaccination schedule will reduce the possibility of missing one injection! Final Thoughts For parents who have any doubts, I strongly advise them to seek further clarification from their doctors. Those with questions on the new immunisation schedule may contact MOH at 03-8883 4042\/ 03-8883 4504 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, or visit the nearest public health clinic for further information (Source: Bernama). I hope this post has provided much-needed clarity and a deeper understanding of what the hexavalent 6-in-1 vaccine is all about and keep your precious little ones protected!