BANGALORE: Children are more prone to infections and vaccinations help them cope with the same. But many parents and adults are confused about the necessary vaccines, their manner of work, the right age for a vaccine and the dosage.
Dr Sameera Reddy, consultant neonatologist and paediatrician, Malathi Manipal Hospitals explains in detail why a vaccination is necessary. “Infections are caused by viruses attacking the body. A vaccination is nothing but injecting a dose of a virus in the body in the early stages. This allows the body to build resistance and antibodies to fight the said virus,” she said.
Vaccinations are one of the most effective methods of preventing infectious diseases. Dr Karunakara BP, Incharge-Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at M S Ramaiah Memorial Hospitals says, “Vaccinations have been largely responsible for the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the restriction of diseases like polio, measles, and tetanus. Thanks to effective vaccinations, India has been declared polio free this year.”
Dr Prakash Vemgal, consultant pediatrician, Fortis Hospitals says,“Vaccines are broadly classified as — Killed vaccines, created by inactivating a pathogen; Live Attenuated Vaccine- Contains live but weakened organisms; Polysaccharide Vaccine - These can be administered only after two years and Conjugate Vaccine, which can be administered as early as six weeks.”
New vaccines in the market:
Last year, the diarrhoea vaccine Rotavac entered the market and doctors say many parents are becoming more and more aware of the same. “The vaccine prevents diarrhoea in infants. Beyond the first year, diarrhoea doesn't pose a threat,” says Dr Reddy.
Dr Karunakara adds, “Print and television advertisements have created awareness among parents, especially the urban educated ones. Actually, things have changed to such an extent that parents come and ask doctors about these vaccines.”
He further adds that many studies across the world have proved the benefit of the vaccines. Dr Suman Rath, HoD pediatrics, Bangalore Baptist hospital says, “Many parents are opting for Rotavirus Vaccine. Currently, two live attenuated oral vaccines are available and others are in various stages of development. The trials done for both the current rotavirus vaccines have shown variable results in developed and developing nations. Other factors like proper hygiene, sanitation and safe water supply contribute greatly in reducing diarrhoea. According to WHO, even a vaccine with approximately 60 per cent efficacy can be given as it has the potential to save more than 1.5 million lives in Africa and Asia alone, between 2010 and 2025.”
Talking about the Pentavalent vaccine which is the combination of five vaccines, Dr Vemgal says, “The recently-launched Pentavalent vaccine initially had concerns about infant deaths. However, the National Technical Advisory group on Immunisation (NTAGI), which conducted a study on vaccine-related infant deaths, has given it the green signal.”
How safe are combination vaccines?
Dr Karunakara adds that combination vaccines are game changers.
“They have reduced injection related problems like pain and fever in children and improved acceptance. Most children are given combined vaccines these days. Introduction of Pentavalent vaccine in government hospitals in some of the states, including Karnataka, has proved beneficial for children from poor sections of the society. Increased awareness among general public has resulted in more and more parents opting for Pentavalent vaccines for their children,” he says.
How helpful are vaccines?
Whether vaccines are really helpful for children is a question that worries many parents. Doctors assure that vaccines are indeed very effective. Dr Vemgal says,“According to the World Bank database, immunisation has been a major contributor in the decline of under-5 mortality rates in last five decades in India.”
Are there complications post administration?
Doctors reassure that they are one of the safest products. Dr Karunakara says, “Vaccines are very safe as they undergo extensive multi-stage research and trials. So, there are no serious safety concerns with vaccines in use.”
Dr Rath says, “In some cases pain, redness, swelling and fever may occur after vaccination. But these are not life threatening. However, in very rare cases severe allergic reactions like wheezing, difficulty in breathing, low blood pressure, swelling of mouth and throat occurs."
Doctors also recommend proper hygiene to prevent certain diseases.
“Diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea spread through poor hand hygiene. By observing hygiene we can cut down the risk of infection to some extent but can't completely eliminate it,” says Dr Vemgal.
He is quick to add that vaccinations are still important. “Most importantly, infants/ babies don't have a well developed immune system which can fight these diseases. Hence, vaccination is the only way for primary prevention.”