VACCINATING a baby used to be a pretty standard process — in Jamaica it starts right after birth with the BCG vaccine, and then they're offered at various points throughout childhood. But with the new discussions about the COVID vaccines, many parents may have renewed interest in what exactly happens when their children are being vaccinated against common illnesses, and what input they have in the process.
Here are answers to some of your most burning vaccine questions, provided by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why do vaccines start so early?
The recommended schedule protects infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they come into contact with life-threatening diseases. Children receive immunisation early because they are susceptible to diseases at a young age. The consequences of these diseases can be very serious, even life-threatening, for infants and young children.
What are the risks and benefits of vaccines?
Vaccines can prevent infectious diseases that once killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. Without vaccines, your child is at risk for getting seriously ill and suffering pain, disability, and even death from diseases like measles and whooping cough. The main risks associated with getting vaccines are side effects, which are almost always mild. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.
Should my child get shots if they are sick?
Talk with your child's doctor, but children can usually get vaccinated even if they have a mild illness like a cold, earache, mild fever, or diarrhoea. If the doctor says it is okay, your child can still get vaccinated.
Why are so many doses needed for each vaccine?
Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides your child with the best protection possible. Depending on the vaccine, your child will need more than one dose to build high enough immunity to prevent disease or to boost immunity that fades over time. Your child may also receive more than one dose to make sure they are protected if they did not get immunity from a first dose, or to protect them against germs that change over time, like the flu. Every dose is important because each protects against infectious diseases that can be especially serious for infants and very young children.
What are the ingredients in vaccines and what do they do?
Vaccines contain ingredients that cause the body to develop immunity. Vaccines also contain very small amounts of other ingredients. All ingredients play necessary roles either in making the vaccine, or in ensuring that the final product is safe and effective.
Shouldn't infants have natural immunity?
Babies may get some temporary immunity (protection) from mom during the last few weeks of pregnancy, but only for diseases to which mom is immune. Breastfeeding may also protect your baby temporarily from minor infections, like colds. These antibodies do not last long, leaving your baby vulnerable to disease.
What are combination vaccines and why are they used?
Combination vaccines protect your child against more than one disease, with a single shot. They reduce the number of shots and office visits your child would need, which not only saves you time and money, but also is easier on your child.
Is there a link between vaccines and autism?
No. Scientific studies and reviews continue to show no relationship between vaccines and autism.
Some people have suggested that thimerosal (a compound that contains mercury) in vaccines given to infants and young children might have something to do with autism. Others have suggested that the MMR (measles- mumps-rubella) vaccine may be linked to autism. However, numerous scientists and researchers have studied and continue to study the MMR vaccine and thimerosal, and reach the same conclusion: there is no link between MMR vaccine or thimerosal and autism.