Immunisation is an important way to protect your child from certain life-threatening diseases.
All the diseases that your child is protected against are serious diseases and by immunising your child, you are also ensuring better protection for the population.
We get sick when our bodies are invaded by germs. For example the measles virus enters the body and gives us measles. Our immune system is meant to protect us from these germs.
These germs enter our body and start to reproduce. Our immune system responds to these “invaders” by making proteins called antibodies. These antibodies help to destroy the germs that are making us sick. But as these germs are already in our body, we would already feel sick by the time our immune system has produced enough antibodies to destroy them. However by eliminating the attacking germs, antibodies then help us get well.
Antibodies also have another job. They remain in our bloodstream, guarding us against future infections. So if the same germs ever try to infect us again even after many years, these antibodies will come to our defense. Now they can destroy the germs before they have a chance to make us sick.
This process is called immunity. This is a very effective system to prevent future disease.
The idea behind vaccination is to give us immunity to a disease before it has a chance to make us sick.
Vaccines are made from the same virus or bacterium (or parts of them) that cause disease. But in vaccines, they are altered so that they cannot cause illness. These vaccines containing the weakened or killed germs are introduced into our body, usually by injection. Our immune system reacts to the vaccine in the same way as to the disease, by making antibodies. Then they stay in our body, giving us immunity and hence afford protection against those diseases.
This “immunologic memory” lasts longer for some vaccines than for others and sometimes re-vaccination is required to maintain protection. Immunisations therefore help the child’s immune system do its work. The child develops protection against future infections, the same as if he or she had been exposed to the natural disease. The good news is, with vaccines your child does not have to get sick first to get that protection.
In Singapore, the National Childhood Immunisation Programme is based on recommendations from Singapore’s National Vaccine advisory committee and the World Health Organization. It is made up of the Childhood Vaccination Programme, which is conducted by the Family Health Service, hospitals and clinics; and the School Vaccination Programme which is conducted by the School Health Service.
Currently, some of these vaccines have been combined into a single vaccine so your baby can get the benefit of all these vaccines, and yet not require multiple injections. In other words, your child still gains the same protection from the vaccines, but there are fewer injections involved to achieve the same protection.
There are also additional vaccines that are available, these include vaccines against chicken-pox, Haemophilus Influenzae B (Hib) bacterial infection, Streptococcus Pneumoniae and Rotavirus.
If you have any concerns/queries about immunizations, please discuss this with your doctor.
The needle does cause brief pain, so it is normal for your baby to cry a little. Often this is just for a few seconds after the injection. Soreness, a slight redness and even a small lump are common, but this usually resolves on its own.
It is also normal for a child to be a little more irritable for a few hours or even a day or so after the injection and there may also be a slight fever (<38°C) that tends to last usually 1–2 days. Your doctor may prescribe a small dose of paracetamol for pain or fever.
Source: Dr TAN Thiam Chye, Dr TAN Kim Teng, Dr TAN Heng Hao, Dr TEE Chee Seng John, The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth, World Scientific 2008.
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This article was last reviewed on
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
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