Ever since Edward Jenner inoculated a farm boy with cowpox in 1796 to demonstrate that it can immunize a person from getting smallpox; the west has had an ever-continuing debate on whether children should be vaccinated, or not. The crux of the objections seem to be that vaccination, also known as immunization, uses small amounts of germs — a killed or weakened germ — that causes the disease. These germs could be viruses or bacteria.
It is only the western countries that hadn’t known of immunization. India had known it more than two millennia ago. Consider how the Vish Kanya were given small doses of poison regularly till they became more venomous than serpents. Buddhist monks used to immunize themselves against snake bites by taking tiny doses of poison daily. However, the concept of vaccinating newborns and toddlers against ailments like diphtheria, tuberculosis (TB), cholera, measles, rubella, tetanus, mumps, smallpox, whooping cough (pertussis), and chickenpox to assure a healthy survival rate, and lowering of child mortality is a twentieth-century phenomenon which led to the eradication of smallpox worldwide.
What is often overlooked during the heated discussions is that millions of lives have been saved, and innumerable children have escaped maiming, and lifelong health issues thanks to vaccination. Though it was never a consideration when taking a call on whether to vaccinate or not; it has saved uncountable families backbreaking monetary strain treating children for ailments like tuberculosis and polio. The stupendous success of the vaccination program has attracted significant hostility from sections that focus on adverse outcomes and try to persuade new parents not to vaccinate their children.
When a tiny amount of a live or inactivated microorganism — virus or bacteria — is introduced into an individual’s system; it generates a reaction within. This is because the immune system is stimulated to generate the same response as when there is an infection. This enables the body to produce antibodies that will protect your body from major infections when posed with the risk.
People view vaccination with suspicion based on their experience, as it has caused many children to suffer adverse side effects ranging from uncontrollably high fever, severe vomiting, diarrhea, even long term effects like autism. The point of anxiety for parents and concern for doctors is the contamination that can disrupt killed-virus, live-attenuated, bacterial, or whole-cell vaccines at various points during the journey from the laboratory to the vial. For some people, vaccination represents an intrusion into their privacy, and loss of control over their bodies (even if it occurred when they were children). For generations that have grown up without having friends and family suffering from whooping cough, diphtheria, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, polio, chickenpox, or smallpox; the jeopardy or threat these ailments present seems academic rather than real.
Safe, effective, and affordable vaccines became a major issue as vaccination became part of routine healthcare. It should be kept in mind that vaccines are biological agents that can be compromised during processing or even transfer. Since contamination of vaccines can be disastrous leading to the child suffering some horrible disease they wouldn’t have suffered otherwise; knowledgeable parents are wary of getting their kids vaccinated.
Well-founded fears: A cardinal example of this is when a 10-year old was inoculated with the BCG vaccine as she hadn’t received that inoculation at birth, but developed galloping TB at age 15. Neither her doctor nor her parents could believe that a healthy girl from a well-to-do family could get TB. It turned out that her system had warded off the adverse effects of what was probably a substandard or contaminated vaccine till she fell seriously ill with amoebiasis.
You would be wise to protect your child by administering the entire spectrum of vaccines your pediatrician recommends, beginning with BCG (to protect against TB and leprosy) and the Hepatitis B vaccine (to prevent future jaundice or liver cancer) within the first week of birth. Other vaccines that should be given within the first two months are polio (IPV), rotavirus (RV), diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP); Pneumococcal (PCV) — to prevent pneumonia, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) — to prevent influenza. These, barring BCG and Hepatitis B, vaccines should be repeated again in the fourth and sixth months. In case your little one misses out on any vaccination, use the period between 7 and 11 months to catch up.
Tillage 14 you should give your little sweetheart influenza shots every flu season. Additionally, you must give the following vaccines between ages 12 to 23 months: chickenpox (varicella); hepatitis A (Hep A); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (pertussis) (DTaP); Pneumococcal (PCV); Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib); polio (IPV) (between 6 through 18 months); and Hepatitis B (Hep B) to provide continuing protection against 14 preventable ailments.
Why is the mumps infection so dangerous? Remember, if your child suffers mumps at any age, it could lead to a future inability to have children naturally. The worst part of mumps (which is a preventable disease) is that if the virus moves into the outer layer of the brain, it can lead to viral meningitis. Some other equally dangerous complications include swelling of the ovaries in females or the testicles in males who have attained puberty leading to infertility subsequently. Also, keep in mind that not only is mumps a very painful condition; there is no known treatment for it as yet.
The only way polio can be totally eradicated from the world is to keep giving booster doses of the polio vaccine. Till the pre-teens, take your child for a well-baby checkup annually, and give booster shots of diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP); measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); and chickenpox as and when recommended by your doctor. In most cases, the cost of immunization is minuscule compared to the horrors it protects your child from now, and later in life.
Takeaway: Vaccination has made several common diseases which carried off many small children a thing of the past. Every child should be vaccinated.