Written by Solaade Ayo-Aderele - Nigeria
|Vaccinate your child, prevent infectious diseases|
Vaccination protects children from serious illness and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases which can include amputation of an arm or leg, paralysis of limbs, hearing loss, convulsions, brain damage, and death.
Physicians say vaccination has saved more lives and prevented more serious diseases than any advance in recent medical history; and that's why they consider it a modern miracle because no other medical intervention has done more to save lives and improve quality of life.
This being the case, what are the diseases that children should be vaccinated against? Read on...
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person; and, according to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with it globally. July 28 is the World Hepatitis Day, and it's meant to draw global attention to this disease, with the ultimate goal of eliminating it.
An expert in child health, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, says under normal circumstances, an infant receives the first immunisation for the hepatitis B virus infection before leaving the hospital; and that if the baby's mother carries the virus, the baby receives the first vaccine shortly after birth.
He warns, "The hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, being one of the recommended childhood immunisations, though many adults also need to be vaccinated against it."
He says that there are stages to being immunised against this virus, so the second injection is given when a child is one or two months old; while the third dose is given at six months of age.
According to the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Ado Muhammad, Nigeria is one step closer to achieving the goal of eradicating polio by 2017, as it has been one year since the last case of polio was reported in the country in July 2014.
Polio (or poliomyelitis) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.
"The virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system. Many infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces, hence transmitting infection to others," WHO warns.
Rotimi says initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs.
The WHO says that in a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. Polio can only be prevented through immunisation.
A new study concludes that children who receive measles vaccination on time have a lower risk of 'adverse events' than those who do later than the recommended period. In other words, babies must take their vaccines as at when due.
Physicians say children who receive their first dose of a measles-containing vaccine at ages 12 months to 15 months, as recommended by physicians, have a lower risk of experiencing fever or seizures shortly after vaccination than those who receive the vaccine at ages 16 months to 23 months.
This highlights the importance of timely immunisation of children.
Parents can protect their babies from this dreadful disease by making them take the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine, otherwise called BCG.
The WHO notes that the deaths of more than 74,000 children due to TB could be prevented each year if parents take the right steps.
Also called paediatric TB, a physician, Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie, notes that children with TB may die from pneumonia or other diseases, hence the need for proper immunisation.
Paediatricians say pneumococcal disease is a serious infection caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae. Rotimi warns that those infected can spread it primarily in droplets from their nose or mouth when they breathe, cough, or sneeze, hence the need to obtain necessary immunisation for babies who may be more susceptible.
He says, "Depending on what organ or part of the body is infected, in addition to causing pneumonia, in children under the age of five, pneumococcal disease will cause any of several serious illnesses, including bacterial meningitis (an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord that can lead to confusion, coma, and death; as well as other physical effects, such as blindness or paralysis); bacteremia (a dangerous infection of the blood stream) and sinus infections.
Since the classic symptoms of meningitis and pneumonia are often not present in very young children, doctors find it hard to correctly diagnose pneumonia, hence the need for prevention through vaccination.
To save your child, obtain the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine – PCV for short.
Other childhood diseases that parents must immunise their babies against include diphtheria – a bacterial infection that mainly affects the nose and throat. Under-five kids are mostly at risk, physicians say.
Rubella – also known as German measles – is another viral infection to worry about, as it is caused by the rubella virus, which is spread in much the same way as a cold or the flu through droplets of moisture from the nose or throat of someone who is infected. These droplets are released into the air when someone coughs, sneezes or talks.