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Dodging Disease

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It’s World Immunization Week, and so, the Mumbai Mix Team is telling you all that you need to know about it

The World Health Organization has dedicated the last week of April to World Immunization Week, with a special theme to raise awareness set every year. This year’s theme is the same as last year’s — narrowing down the immunisation gap and maintaining lifelong immunisation. With this campaign, the WHO intends to bridge the gap on global vaccination targets. According to the organisation, one out of every five children misses out on routine, life-saving immunisations, and this is estimated to help avert 1.5 million deaths from preventable diseases every year. Our efforts aren’t falling by the wayside though. For instance, Afghanistan and Pakistan now are the only countries that are still polio-endemic. This is in contrast with the 1,225 countries that were endemic in 1988. Here, we tell you all you need to know about immunisation — the different shots you need to give your child and when they should be taking them. We also take you through the benefits, the possible downsides and give you a few interesting facts about the effort that is being made to get every child immunised.

WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT?
While we’re all familiar with the term immunisation, World Immunization Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. With this initiative, the WHO aims to provide children with basic life-saving vaccines and, as we already mentioned, to bridge the gap in progress towards the targets set by the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).

This year, the campaign will be focussing on immunisation that is not only for children, but also for adolescents and adults. Apart from that, it aims to draw the world’s attention to the critical importance of reaching vulnerable people who live in conflict areas, or in the wake of emergencies. Immunisation saves millions of lives and is widely recognised as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions.

Benefits
Before the availability of vaccines, millions of children around the world succumbed to fatal diseases such as diphtheria, malaria and polio — diseases that are no longer as life-threatening as they once were. These programs are responsible for the elimination, containment and control of numerous infectious diseases that were common throughout the world. Here are a few crucial benefits of immunisation.

  • It can save a life Because of the advancements in medical science, your child can be protected against more than one deadly disease at a time. There have been diseases that existed in the past which have been completely eradicated due to effective vaccination. Polio is one such example.
     
  • It’s safe and effective Children are vaccinated after a long and careful review by scientists and doctors from around the world. It might involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness and tenderness around the injected area, but this is a minor setback when compared with the pain and discomfort you might have to go through if you are infected with the disease.
     
  • It saves money Certain diseases (those that can be treated with vaccines) can result in prolonged disabilities, which can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, costly medical bills and disability care.
     
  • Future generations are protected Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, completely eliminated diseases that led to death or disability just a few generations ago. Children today don’t need to get the small pox vaccine, because the disease no longer exists.

The downsides
No medical science is completely foolproof and when you’re dealing with biological agents and the human body, there are several unforeseeable hurdles. Parasites and bacteria adapt to new drugs, so there are a few downsides to immunisation as well.

  • Allergic reactions According to the USA’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC), all vaccines come with the risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction. However, the risk is small — only about one in a million children are affected in this way.
     
  • Possible neurological damage Vaccines contain harmful compounds, even if they are taken in small doses. Some scientists believe that an organic mercury compound called thimerosal, which is present in very small amounts in certain vaccines for children and adults, is linked with autism. Other harmful components of vaccines include aluminium, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde and animal and yeast proteins.
     
  • Unnecessary doses Many believe that vaccination may not be as important as it is claimed. They also believe that many diseases that vaccines protect against can be treated with simple medication.

VACCINES — WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • OPT vaccine This vaccine needs to be administered three times for infants — at 6, 10 and 14-weeks-old. After these doses, boosters need to be administered when children are 15 to 18-months-old, 5-years-old and 10-years-old. This helps to prevent respiratory illnesses, whooping cough and pneumonia.
     
  • HPV vaccine The HPV vaccine is for girls and helps prevent cervical cancer. It must be administered at birth, 1 to 2-months-old, 6-months-old and later when they are 10 to12-years-old.
     
  • BCG vaccine This is given to children at birth and helps to prevent tuberculosis infections.
     
  • Hepatitis B vaccine This vaccine is given to children at birth and at the ages of 6 weeks, 6 to 9-months-old and again at 10-years-old. It helps with liver infections.
     
  • MMR vaccine Children should be given this vaccine at 9 to 15-months-old and later when they are around 4 or 5-years-old. It protects them against the mumps, measles and rubella.
     
  • Varicella vaccine This simple injection, which protects against chicken pox, is given to children at the age of 12 to 15-months-old. A booster is required when children are between 4 to 6-years-old.
     
  • Oral polio vaccine (OPV) This must be given to children at birth and at the ages of 6, 10 and 14-weeks-old. After that, until your child is 5-years-old, this must be repeated every few months. Along with OPV, IPV (inactivated polio vaccine) injections are administered. The best way to find out when to give your child the polio vaccine is to follow the Polio Ravivaar campaign and talk to your paediatrician about it.

You should remember that some of the vaccines we mentioned are administered in combinations and whether or not your child can get them may depend on various factors such as fever and allergies. Consult a paediatrician on a regular basis for your child’s vaccination needs.

RECENT OUTBREAKS IN INDIA & THEIR VACCINES
While India has achieved its goal of eradicating polio and recently has even been declared tetanus free, there are a few outbreaks that require attention. Here are a couple of them, along with possible vaccination.

Measles
The pesky measles virus is a recurring one and has gotten to most of us at least once! Measles starts with a fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes and sore throat. This is followed by a rash that spreads over the body. Malnutrition and a deficiency of vitamin A can contribute to the illness.
Vaccination available Two doses of MMR and MMRV vaccine between 12 months and 12-years-old

Rotavirus
Rotavirus affects mostly babies and young children, and it causes severe diarrhoea that leads to dehydration. Vomiting and fever are also common among babies with rotavirus. The WHO estimated over 500,000 deaths in 2004 due to rotavirus, nearly all in developing countries, with about one-quarter of the deaths occurring in India.
Vaccination available RotaTeq (RV5) given in 3 doses when children are 2, 4 and 6-months-old, and Rotarix (RV1) given in 2 doses when children are 2 and 4-months-old

Pneumococcal meningitis
This disease is caused by a bacterium known as Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Pneumococcal infections can range from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. The symptoms can include high fever, chills and a cough accompanied by pulmonary pain.
Vaccination available Pneumovax 23 for intramuscular or subcutaneous injection

Pertussis
Pertussis, or whooping cough, commonly affects young children. Besides a cough that sounds like a “whoop”, symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing. It takes around ten days for the signs and symptoms to appear after the child is infected with the pertussis virus.
Vaccination available DTaP and Tdap for adolescents and teens. Children should get five doses of DTaP vaccine at 2 to 6-months-old, 15 to 18-months-old and up to 6-years-old.

Hepatitis B
The symptoms of Hepatitis B include yellowing of the eyes and acute abdominal pain along with the urine being much darker than normal. Since the condition affects the liver, it can cause scarring of the organ, liver failure and in some very extreme cases, cancer.
Vaccination available Hepatitis B vaccine; all infants are to be given a dose at birth and it is usually given as three or four shots by the time they are six to 18-months-old. Babies are at a much greater risk of infection.

WHO’s work on immunisation
Even though it looks at many health related problems, the WHO maintains a strong focus on immunisation. The organisation created the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), which is a framework to prevent millions of deaths by ensuring access to existing vaccines. The GVAP has been endorsed by the 194 Member States of the World and it aims to meet vaccination targets as well as introduce new and improved vaccines and aid research as well as development for the next generation of vaccines.

Stats on immunisation

  • 115 million infants vaccinated with three doses of DTP in 2014, increasing the global coverage to 86% from 74% in 2004.
  • 18.7 million (estimated) infants are still not reached by routine immunisation services.
  • 1.5 million children under the age of five died from vaccine-preventable diseases in 2008.
  • 2 to 3 million deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles averted annually by vaccination.
  • In 2014, 85% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday.
  • 5 lakh children die every year in India due to diseases preventable by vaccination.
  • 89 lakh children in India remain at risk because they are either not immunised or partially immunised against diseases.
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