The most reliable and time-tested means of preventing infectious diseases is vaccination (immunization). Its purpose is to develop immunity to microbes in the body with the help of specially designed vaccines. The effectiveness of vaccinations around the world is universally recognized – there is no other health program that would bring such impressive results. Indeed, with the help of vaccination every year it is possible to prevent a significant number of deaths, namely, to save up to 4.5 million human lives!
The choice of vaccination concerns each of us, especially when a new family member is born. Protecting your children from deadly infections and understanding the importance of vaccination are the responsibilities of every parent.
Today, there are about 100 vaccines against 40 infections and every decade brings ever new achievements in vaccination.
Different countries have their own national vaccination calendars. Such a calendar in the United States provides for mandatory protection of children against 12 infectious diseases:
- Hepatitis B;
- Whooping cough;
- Pneumococcal infection;
- Hemophilus infection (for children at risk).
Additional vaccinations for children and adults
Vaccination of children is carried out in accordance with the Vaccination Schedule. But besides the mandatory vaccinations, additional ones are often no less necessary for the modern child. For example, vaccination against a hemophilic bacillus is provided by the Vaccination Schedule only for children at risk, although this infection is dangerous for any child under 5 years old because it causes meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia. It is advisable to protect the baby from meningococcal infection (from 1.5 years), from hepatitis A (after 1 year), chickenpox (from 12 months), rotavirus (from 6 weeks of life) and other infections. It is especially important to get these vaccinations before entering preschool institutions, when preparing for trips abroad, as well as if you or your children often get ill with chronic somatic diseases.
When vaccinating your children, do not forget about yourself. Not everyone knows that every adult should be vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus every 10 years; against the flu – every year. Influenza vaccination is especially indicated for older people, as it reduces morbidity and mortality from a heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, prevents exacerbation of various chronic diseases, etc.
Young women who have not had rubella and chickenpox and have not been vaccinated before should be vaccinated against these diseases in advance (at least 3 months before their desired pregnancy). Indeed, transferred chickenpox or rubella during the entire period of expectation of the baby can cause serious complications with the development of congenital malformations. Young people who have not had mumps and were not vaccinated against this infection in childhood should also be vaccinated against this infection, which can lead to male infertility. In addition, given the high prevalence, carriage and the presence of latent forms of hepatitis A and B, it is advisable to be vaccinated against these infections for all people, regardless of gender and age.
When traveling to endemic areas, you need to be vaccinated in advance against infections characteristic of the area (tick-borne encephalitis, typhoid fever, tularemia, yellow fever, etc.).
Currently, the most popular vaccines are manufactured by well-known world manufacturers (GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi Pasteur, Pfizer, etc.). These vaccines have some advantages – more often such vaccines are combined (include components that protect against several infections at the same time) and contain other preservatives. The degree of purification also varies; the mentioned vaccines are produced in single-use vials or in syringe doses.
One of such combined vaccines is Priorix (Belgium), which allows for simultaneous protection against rubella, measles and mumps, which reduces the number of injections and makes vaccination more convenient for children and their parents.
The Angerix B vaccine (Belgium) against hepatitis B is recognized by most experts as the safest and most effective vaccine in the world. This is the first recombinant vaccine in the world made without blood components and containing no preservatives.
The new generation vaccine Infanrix (Belgium) protects against pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus. The pertussis component, previously often causing adverse reactions, is lightweight in the Infanrix vaccine – it is cell-free, which is much easier to carry than the whole-cell component of the usual DTP vaccine. That is why Infanrix is recommended for vaccination of infants with various neurological pathologies who previously either received a long-term withdrawal from vaccination or were vaccinated with vaccines without pertussis component.
There is also the Hiberix vaccine (Belgium) against hemophilic infection. In addition, the Infanrix Hexa combination vaccine is actively used, which contains components against 6 major infections included in the Vaccination Schedule, namely against pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B and hemophilic infection. The tolerability of this vaccine is almost comparable to the tolerance of the Infanrix vaccine.
In order to maximize the safety of polio vaccination, it is advisable that the first two or three vaccinations are not live (oral polio vaccine – OPV) but the inactivated polio vaccine Imovax Polio (France) or Poliorix (Belgium).
The Pentaxim vaccine, manufactured by a leading French company, contains several components that protect against 5 infectious diseases at the same time (whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hemophilic infection). The use of this vaccine can significantly reduce the number of injections, which means reducing negative emotions in the baby during vaccination. Its advantages are also the cell-free pertussis component (as in the Infanrix vaccine) and the inactivated (killed) polio component. A thorough study of the Pentaxim vaccine over many years has confirmed its high efficacy and safety.
The Prevenar vaccine against pneumococcal infections has been used for more than 10 years in the schedules of compulsory vaccination in developed countries. The vaccine protects children and adults from serious diseases caused by pneumococcus: pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis and otitis media, which often lead to disability and even a dramatic outcome. It is especially important to start vaccinating the baby as early as possible since children under 2 years of age are most susceptible to this formidable infection. Vaccination against pneumococcus can be done together with any other vaccine. Please note that according to the Vaccination Schedule, vaccination against pneumococcal infection is mandatory for babies 2 and 4.5 months of age with a booster dose of 15 months.
Many parents wonder if so many vaccinations are a burden on the baby’s immunity. According to scientific evidence, the simultaneous administration of several vaccines does not have adverse effects on the child’s immune system. Children are exposed daily to several hundred pathogens of various diseases that cause a protective immune response.
Every day, a variety of microbes enter the body during the meal, and numerous bacteria live in the mouth and nose. A child is exposed to a significantly larger number of foreign antigens as a result of the common cold than from vaccines. In contrast, combination vaccines (including several components to protect against different infections) have many advantages. Thus, the simultaneous administration of several vaccines in one syringe helps to reduce the number of visits to the clinic, which saves time and money and also ensures that the required vaccination schedule is observed. In addition, the use of combination vaccines leads to a decrease in the number of injections, which means that it reduces the pain and tears of a small patient.