Definition and Overview
Vaccines are given at different times in a person’s life. Those that are administered to infants and children are called paediatric vaccines.
Vaccination is an integral part of immunization, a process where the body is made to become resistant to a variety of disease-causing agents such as bacteria and viruses.
According to UNICEF, immunization has led to the almost complete disappearance of polio and the eradication of smallpox virus. Although measles is still very much around, the process has brought down the fatality rate among children by as much as 71% globally. In another statistic report, vaccination has helped save the lives of more than 2 million children. It has also significantly reduced the number of cases diphtheria, mumps, rubella, pertussis, and tetanus between 98% and 100% in the United States.
Vaccines are available in different forms. They can be inactivated, live, DNA, conjugate, toxoid, recombitant, and subunit. One of the most common types is inactivated vaccine, which means the virus or bacterium has already been killed before it is injected into the body. This is in contrast with live where a live but a very weak virus or bacterium is being used.
In some cases, specialists make use of a part of the virus or bacterium to make a subunit vaccine as well as a toxoid (if the threat is the toxin secreted by the microbes) and conjugate (which removes the protective covering of the microbes that help them mask themselves against the immune system). DNA and recombinant vaccines, meanwhile, are currently in the experimental phase.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Paediatric vaccines are given to children from 0 to 6 years old. Children who have not received any vaccination ever should obtain the needed immunization as soon as possible.
Some vaccines are given only once, though most have to be repeated at certain times. They may also be given in separate doses that are spaced few weeks or months apart. This is to ensure long-lasting protection against the pathogen.
Vaccines do not guarantee a hundred percent immunity. For instance, a child who has received a yearly or updated influenza vaccine can still develop the disease. The vaccine simply increases the body’s resistance against threats. This way, medications and other interventions necessary to eliminate the threat can be rendered more effective.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Based on the coverage schedule provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), newborns must receive hepatitis B vaccine. Ideally, this should be administered between one and two months and again, between six and eighteen months.
Rubella vaccine and the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are injected during the second, fourth, and six months. The latter is administered again once the child has reached 15 to 18 months, then between four and six years old.
Meanwhile, the vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type B is given four times during the child’s life: 2 months, four months, six months, and between 12 and 15 months. The pneumococcal vaccine, which is conjugated, follows the same schedule as the influenza type B vaccine.
For the polio vaccine, it should be given during the baby’s second, fourth, and six months, as well as between 12 and 15 months. The last paediatric vaccine for polio is given when the child is between four and six years old.
The hepatitis A vaccine is provided between the child’s first year and 23 months. After six to 18 months, the hepatitis A vaccine will be administered again. Varicella vaccine is given during 12 to 15 months, as well as between 4 to 6 years.
The vaccine against influenza is administered yearly. Vaccination will be in two doses, which will be around a month apart.
Vaccination is a community effort. The main responsibilities lie on both the parents and paediatricians. By the time the baby is born and during his or her vaccination, the parent is provided with a book that is used to keep track of the schedule. Parents can bring their kids to local health centers or to their doctors’ clinics.
Meanwhile, many schools are currently requiring or encouraging their students to have a complete or updated vaccination before attending classes.
Possible Risks and Complications
Most of the side effects of paediatric vaccination are mild. These include a low-grade fever and redness or soreness at the injected site. The fever may happen as the body’s immunity produces the necessary antibodies against the microbe. Some people, nevertheless, exhibit more adverse reactions such as severe allergic reactions. There have been reported cases of neurological side effects. These cases, however, are extremely rare.
One of the biggest debates surrounding vaccination on children is its relationship with autism. At least 1 in every 68 kids in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a type of mental disorder characterized by the person’s inability to communicate and build relationships with others.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of the disorder include unresponsiveness to loud sounds, inability to make eye contact, tendency to lash out or throw tantrums, difficulty in showing affection, and inability to learn new words or actions unlike other children their age.
A number of experts suggest that there’s evidence suggesting a link between autism and vaccine, especially since the first symptoms appear at 2 months old, a time when most of the essential paediatric vaccines are first administered. They also consider the direct proportional increase of both the administered vaccines and the diagnosed autism cases.
On the other hand, those who champion vaccines cite that there’s no clear or solid evidence on their effect on autism. If there are studies, the analyses are often limited to be fully accepted by the scientific community. Further, others believe that the benefits still far outweigh the possible risks and complications of vaccination.