Immunization is the process by which a person attains immunity or resistance against infectious diseases through vaccinations. A vaccine is a suspension of dead or weakened disease-producing cells (antigen). Vaccination is the process of administering the vaccine into your body. These inactivated cells stimulate your body’s immune system. Once vaccinated, your immune system remembers that particular antigen and can combat it again later in your life.
Immunizations are important for children as well as grownups, but the prevalence and complications from vaccine-preventable diseases remain fairly large in adults. Several national agencies have formulated detailed guidelines for comprehensive immunization in adults. Some of the recommended adult vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap), influenza, pneumococcal, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella and zoster, and human papilloma virus vaccines.
Travelers are at a greater risk for contracting infectious diseases. Vaccinations must be personalized with respect to the traveler’s vaccination history, the country to be visited, the type and duration of travel, and the time left for departure. A travel medicine clinic has to be consulted at least 2 to 3 months in advance to allow adequate time to optimize the immunization schedules. Some of the recommended vaccinations for travellers include typhoid, rabies, meningococcal disease, Japanese encephalitis, influenza, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, cholera, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), yellow fever, tetanus and diphtheria, poliomyelitis, pertussis, and measles-mumps-rubella.
Immunocompromised and pregnant people are, in general, not recommended for live vaccines such as oral typhoid, yellow fever, MMR, varicella, and BCG. Your doctor will be the best person to address your concerns and make further recommendations.
Vaccination is administration of antigenic material (the inactivated germ or a part of it) that boosts up your immunity to a disease. It is considered to be the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases. Vaccines stimulate the immune system and make the immune system ready to fight against a disease. The immunizations can be made more effective with periodic repeat injections or “boosters”. It increases our ability to fight diseases that may be contagious or even fatal. Vaccinations are important for adults as well as for children.
Vaccines containing dead or inactivated germs when introduced into the body the immune system react to the vaccine by making antibodies. These antibodies help protect from disease when similar germs invade the body in future.
Infectious diseases are contagious and spread from one person to other. Vaccinating large population may avoid the spread of disease in a community and with the time the disease can be eradicated from the society.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Advisory committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) issue every year a list of recommended vaccines along with the schedules. Please consult your paediatrician for the latest immunization schedule for your child. These advisory committees recommend all or some of the vaccines listed below to your child depending on the age.
Hepatitis B Vaccine – Hepatitis B virus targets the liver and hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) can prevent your child from developing chronic liver disease or liver cancer in future. It is administered three times, the first dose is given within a short period after birth for all infants before hospital discharge; the second and third are usually given at 1 to 2 months and 6 to 18 months of age.
Pneumococcal Vaccine – The Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) offers protection against the infections such as meningitis, blood infections, and pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria. PCV immunizations are given as a series of four injections at ages of 2- , 4- , 6- months and last dose between 12 and 15 months.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Acellular Pertussis Vaccine – Diphtheria, Tetanus, and acellular Pertussis Vaccine (DTaP vaccine) is a combination vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The DTaP is scheduled as a series of 5 injections at ages 2- , 4- , 6- months, between 15 and 18 months, and the last dose between 4 and 6 years. After these initial shots, a booster dose of the vaccine Tdap must be administered between 11 and 12 years or to the older teens and adults those who have not received a booster with pertusis coverage. Booster doses of Td (tetanus and diphtheria) should be given every 10 years thereafter.
Haemophilus Influenza type B Vaccine – Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) disease is a serious condition caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria. The Hib vaccine is given at ages 2- , 4- , and 6- months and a booster dose is given between 12 and 15 months. It provides long term protection from Haemophilus influenza type b infections.
Poliovirus Vaccine – Inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) is administered to protect your child from polio. Poliomyelitis or polio is a disease caused by polioviruses that can damage the nervous system, cause paralysis and can lead to death. Poliovirus vaccine is usually given at four doses at age 2 months, 4 months, between 6 and 18 months and between 4 and 6 years.
Influenza Vaccine – Influenza, commonly called as flu is a contagious respiratory tract infection caused by influenza viruses. Influenza vaccine is recommended for all people aged 6 months and above. Influenza vaccines were administered during the outbreak of H1N1 flu.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine – The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. The MMR vaccines are injected as two doses, the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second dose between 4 and 6 years.
Varicella Vaccine – Varicella vaccine protects against chicken pox, one of the common and a highly contagious childhood viral disease. The vaccine is recommended in children between 12 and 15 months, followed by a booster dose between 4 and 6 years for further protection.
Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine – The meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4) is a vaccine used to protect infants and young children against meningococcal disease, a bacterial infection caused by meningococcal bacteria. It is usually given between the age of 11 and 12 years.
Hepatitis A Vaccine – Hepatitis A infection causes flu-like symptoms. The vaccine is given at two doses, first dose at 12 months and second dose at 18 months.
Rotavirus Vaccine – Rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhoea among infants and young children. The vaccine which is a liquid given by mouth in a three dose ,first dose at 3 months, second dose at 4 months, and third dose at 6 months. The third dose must be given before 32 weeks of age.
Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine– – Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection that causes genital warts and precancerous changes in the uterine cervix leading to cervical cancer. The vaccine is recommended in a three dose schedule over a 6 month period; in girls, the vaccine is recommended between 11 and 12 years and also in older girls who were not vaccinated before. The vaccine is recommended for boys between 9 and 18 years to prevent the development of genital warts.
Some vaccines may cause mild temporary side effects such as fever and soreness or swelling and redness at the site of injection. Serious reactions are rare and if any serious reactions are observed consult your paediatrician immediately. Your paediatrician may discuss with you all the possible risks and benefits of immunization.