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Immunization is a method of protecting individuals against certain specific diseases. The patient is given a small amount of a weakened form of the organism responsible for that disease. This dose is small enough to avoid producing the symptoms but can stimulate the body to develop its own antibodies. These are substances which, once produced, remain in the blood circulation and defend the body against further infection by that specific type of bacteria or virus.

Vaccines are now available against a wide range of infections including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, mumps, measles, German measles, small pox and tuberculosis, and they have had a dramatic effect in reducing the number of cases of these diseases. Immunization should ideally be carried out before the individual is at risk of contracting the disease, and it is therefore advisable for the routine immunization against the common illness of childhood to be undertaken at a very early age. It is very important to keep an accurate record of the immunization that your child has received.

Some parents are anxious about the advisability of the immunization because of the possibility of side-effects or complications of the vaccine. It is sometimes difficult to get a balanced view of the pros and cons of the issue because the publicity given to it has, all too frequently, tended to stress the dangers rather than the advantages or the immunization. It is important to remember that these diseases can cause considerable distress to young children and may sometimes result in serious and harmful complications. The means of prevention are now available and, unless there are very strong reasons to the contrary, parents are strongly advised to ensure that their children are given the full immunization program.

Types of immunization

Triple Vaccine (D.P.T): Active against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. This is given as an injection in three doses during the first year of life with a booster dose (containing only the diptheria and tetanus vaccine) on entering school. Further tetanus boosters should be given every ten years to keep up the level of protection.

Complications : Much publicity has been given to the possibility of the pertussis vaccine causing brain damage and this has understandably resulted in considerable parental anxiety. Unless there is evidence of previous brain damage, or a history of fits ( convulsions) in the child or the immediate family, it is advisable for the child to be immunized with the triple vaccine, as whooping cough in early childhood is a disease that can have serious complications.

Polio : The vaccine for poliomyelitis is given by mouth in three doses at the same time as the triple vaccine, with a booster dose at five years.

Measles : A single dose of the vaccine is given by injection.

Complications : The child will frequently develop a fever and mild rash following the injection. There is a very slight risk of causing a convulsion and therefore care should be taken with children known to suffer from fits or who have had previous brain damage.

Rubella (German measles) : A single injection should be given to all girls at the time of puberty (usually between the ages of 11 and 13) irrespective of whether they think they already had the disease.

Anti – Tuberculosis (B.C.G.) : This vaccine should be given as a routine to all children between 11 and 13 who have not developed any immunity to the disease. The child will be tested for tuberculosis in school by what is called a Heaf test which consists of making a small injection into the skin and waiting two to three days to see if the child develops a red, slightly painful reaction at site of the injection; this indicates that the child has been infected by the tuberculosis bacterium ( but not necessarily that the child has active tuberculosis). Immunization should also be given earlier to any child who has been in contact with someone with tuberculosis and is given at birth to those who come from environments where there is a high risk of catching the illness.

Age Vaccine
During 1st year
Polio3 doses by mouth
Comments : if pertussis is to be omitted, then diphtheria and tetanus vaccines should be given with polio.
2nd year Measles
At school entry
Comments : no pertussis given at this age.
11 - 13 years Rubella ( German measles)
Comments : girls only
B.C.G. (against tuberculosis)
Comment : given to all children who have no immunity against tuberculosis.
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