Why should we vaccinate?
Vaccines prevent serious illnesses and don't we all know that prevention is better than cure? Vaccines don't kill immunity- rather they stimulate immunity against various infections.
Vaccine is a modified product from the infective organism (like a bacteria or a virus). Giving a vaccine is like deliberately introducing a mild, insignificant infection in the body to stimulate and prime the body defenses. So when there is a real infection, the defense system is ready and waiting to combat that infection successfully.
In the history of medicine, vaccines occupy pride of a place as one of the most successful advancements. Thanks to vaccines, millions of lives have been saved from many deadly diseases.
Aren’t there too many vaccines?
The recommended vaccination schedule has gone on expanding over the decades. As compared to a handful of vaccines which were included in the earlier programs, now the number of vaccines has increased considerably. Thanks to continuing research and advancement in medical technology, now we have vaccines against illnesses against which we earlier had no helpful preventive measures.
If we look at the emerging trends, then it is quite sure that we will be having many more vaccines in the years to come. Rather than feeling daunted by this phenomenon, we should be happy that the newer generations are going to get much better prevention against many life-threatening illnesses.
Aren’t these vaccines dangerous?
Most of the vaccines have very mild and minimal side effects like some pain/ redness/ swelling at the injection site and fever. These side-effects are occasional, transient and can be easily avoided with a few doses of analgesics. Serious side effects though possible, are very rare.
Don’t try and avoid vaccinating your child because you are afraid of their side-effects. Their benefits far outweigh these minor after-effects.
There are some quack websites blaming everything wrong under the sun on the vaccines but understand one thing clearly that any vaccine goes into a public program only after multiple, rigorous trials of its safety and efficacy. Expert bodies consisting of prominent, experienced doctors and scientists carefully evaluate all the research data and then only recommend it for general use.
Is it true that we have to observe a lot of precautions after the vaccination – like not feeding the baby for an hour or not giving bath the next day?
These are just misconceptions. For oral vaccines like Oral Polio Vaccine or Rotavirus Vaccine, the feeding needs to be postponed for just about 15 minutes after the vaccine administration. This is done to avoid vomiting.
As far as the bathing is concerned, it should go on as usual. There is no harm in that.
Can we give vaccines when the child is ill?
There is no need to avoid vaccination for minor illnesses like cold, cough or loose motions. Only when the child is running high fever and looking really sick, should the vaccination be postponed.
Aren't these vaccines expensive?
Unfortunately the cost of the vaccinations sometimes forces the parents to shy away. Most of them try to reason it out by saying that since they themselves have done well without all such ‘new’ vaccines, they could certainly do without them for their kids. It’s a silly logic and it’s dangerous, too.
Another factor that takes away importance from vaccination is that it is for a normal and healthy child. Parents who don't mind spending much more on treatment when their child is sick sometimes think twice before spending much less for preventive vaccines when the child is perfectly fine.
As a paediatrician, I am appalled by this casual attitude, which could cost a human life or impair it when it is perfectly possible to prevent this from happening through a little more awareness and planning. I welcome all the protection that a child gets and strongly recommend all the possible vaccines as per official recommendations. As a parent, I view the expenditure on this account as an investment for my child's healthy future!