As a parent, everyone wants best for their children. Protecting your child’s health is one of your main concerns. So most of us choose to vaccinate children to prevent previously devastating, widespread disease by significantly reducing childhood infection rates. Vaccines not only help keep your child healthy, they help all children by stamping out serious childhood diseases.
We may often wonder why vaccines are given at such an early stage?? Its because the diseases they prevent often strike at an early age. Since their immune systems are not yet fully mature and also their stomachs produce less acid, making it easier for ingested bacteria and viruses to multiply. These factors leave them more susceptible than older kids and adults to the devastating effects of these serious diseases. Infants need 2-5 doses of each recommended vaccine. Each dose increases your baby’s protection against a specific disease. For the earliest and best protection, your baby needs to complete each vaccine series on time.
Next Question is whether your infant’s immune system can handle all the vaccines. The truth is that infants can respond to multiple vaccines, which play a vital role in helping their immune system avoid diseases. Babies may get some temporary immunity (protection) from mother during the last few weeks of pregnancy, but only for the diseases to which mom is immune.
Breastfeeding may also protect your baby temporarily from minor infections, like colds. These antibodies do not last long, leaving your baby vulnerable to disease. Natural immunity occurs when your child is exposed to a disease and becomes infected. It is true that natural immunity usually results in better immunity than vaccination, but the risks are much greater. A natural chickenpox infection may result in pneumonia, whereas the vaccine might only cause a sore arm for a couple of days.
Vaccines are made from the same germs (or parts of them) that cause disease; for example, polio vaccine is made from polio virus. But the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so they won’t make you sick. Vaccines containing these weakened or killed germs are introduced into your body, usually by injection. Your immune system reacts to the vaccine in a similar way that it would if it were being invaded by the disease i.e. by making antibodies. The antibodies destroy the vaccine germs just as they would the disease germs like a training exercise. Then they stay in your body, giving you immunity. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are there to protect you.
Vaccines, like any medication, may cause some side effects. Most of these side effects are very minor, like soreness where the shot was given, fussiness, or a low-grade fever. The se side effects typically only last a couple of days and are treatable. For example, you can apply a cool, wet washcloth on the sore area to ease discomfort. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare and doctors and clinic staff are trained to deal with them. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.
Some people have suggested that thimerosal (a compound that contains mercury) in vaccines given to infants and young children might be a cause of autism, and others have suggested that the MMR (measles- mumps-rubella) vaccine may be linked to autism. However, numerous scientists and researchers have studied and continue to study the MMR vaccine and thimerosal, and reach the same conclusion: that there is no link between them and autism.
Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides your child with the best protection possible. Depending on the vaccine, more than one dose is needed to build high enough immunity to prevent disease, boost immunity that fades over time, make sure people who did not get immunity from a first dose are protected, or protect against germs that change over time, like flu. Every dose of a vaccine is important because they all protect against infectious diseases that are threats today and can be especially serious for infants and very young children.
The recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to life-threatening diseases. I prefer and advise every parent to vaccinate as the consequences of these diseases can be very serious, and even life-threatening, for infants and young children. For more information about vaccination in India, click here.