When the body is exposed to a foreign substance, an immune response is initiated and antibodies are produced to fight the invading organism. The vaccine is similar to an invading germ and elicits a response from the body, preparing it for the possibility of encountering the disease. Some vaccines require booster doses.
What and when?
The national immunisation programme, also known as the EPI (Expanded Programme of Immunisation), ensures that vaccines are provided free of charge in state clinics.
Other vaccines are available from private doctors and clinics at your own cost. These include:
Two doses of vaccine are given six months apart from the age of two years, giving long-term protection.
The flu vaccine is recommended for children who suffer from asthma, HIV, chronic respiratory, kidney or cardiac diseases or those who are on long-term aspirin therapy.
The flu vaccine can be given from six months. If it is given to a child under the age of eight years who has never had the flu vaccine or influenza, a booster dose is required four weeks after the initial dose. Annual immunisation is recommended to counter the different strains that occur.
Mumps, measles and rubella (German measles). The rubella vaccine protects against congenital rubella syndrome. Besides deafness and possible meningitis as complications in children with mumps, it is the older patient who is more at risk. The risks include an increased miscarriage rate in pregnant women as a result of rubella as well as inflammation of the ovaries in girls after puberty and inflammation of the testes in boys after puberty as a result of mumps.
A chickenpox vaccine is available and is recommended for children from ten months.
Some parents are afraid of vaccines as they have heard that immunisation may lead to serious problems such as autism. The latest research does not support these claims. No drug is completely without risks, but vaccines are amongst the safest of all medications.
Serious side effects are rare and include high fever, a rash or excessive swelling at the site of injection, uncontrollable crying, convulsions and aseptic meningitis. Vaccines do have the potential to cause a severe allergic reaction, but this is extremely rare (roughly one case per million). By not vaccinating, we expose the child to the risks of the diseases, but also increase the chances of spreading the disease. A recent measles outbreak in South Africa and a polio outbreak in Nigeria are examples of what can happen when immunisation rates drop.
If your baby is miserable after her vaccination, give her a dose of paediatric paracetamol and extra cuddles. Apply arnica cream to the injection site. However, never give paracetamol before the vaccination as this has been shown to counteract the vaccine.
Minor complaints such as a runny nose are not generally considered reason enough to postpone a vaccination. If a child has a high fever the immunisation should be deferred for a few days until she is better.
National Routine Immunisation Schedule
Age of child & vaccine
- Birth: OPV (oral polio vaccine), BCG
- 6 weeks: OPV, RV, DTaP-IPV/Hib, HBV, PCV
- 10 weeks: DTaP-IPV/Hib, HBV
- 14 weeks: RV, DTap-IPV/Hib, HBV, PCV
- 9 months: Measles vaccine, PCV
- 18 months: DTaP-IPV/HIB, Measles vaccine
- 6 years: Td vaccine
- 9 years: HPV
- 12 years: Td vaccine
What does that mean?
- BCG- Bacille Calmette Guérin vaccine
- DTaP-IPV/Hib- Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, inactivated polio vaccine and haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine
- Td vaccine- Tetanus and reduced amount of diphtheria vaccine
- TdaP-IPV- Tetanus and reduced amount of diphtheria vaccine with acellular pertussis and inactivated polio vaccine
- HPV- Human papillomavirus vaccine
- HBV- Hepatitis B vaccine
- MMR- Measles, mumps and rubella
- OPV- Oral polio vaccine
- PCV- Pneumococcal conjugated vaccine
- RV- Rotavirus vaccine