Medical science has succeeded in curing many diseases and also eradicating more than 20 life-threatening diseases through vaccines. Yet, there is a whole set of people who do not believe in the power of vaccines and hoard reservations towards it. Children are at greater risk of diseases because their immune systems are not yet fully developed, and their bodies are less able to fight off infection. They should be vaccinated at the recommended time.
Vaccines are biological substances that reduce the risks of getting a disease by working with your body’s natural defenses to build protection. Immunization currently prevents almost 3 million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza and measles.
What are vaccines?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) ‘Vaccines train your immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it’s exposed to a disease. However, because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications’. Vaccines produce an immune response in the body, without causing illness. Receiving one or more doses of a vaccine can protect against a disease for years and sometimes for life. Vaccines prevent us from getting sick in the first place.
Why should we get vaccinated and for how long can they be delayed?
“Diseases like Diptheria, whooping cough, measles, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus and polio still exist and pose life-threatening risks to us”, says Dr. Sharadha Srinivas, a pediatrician from Chennai. “These can be prevented by vaccination.”
“The birth vaccines and primary vaccines that are given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks should not be delayed and must be administered on time. But booster doses, cervical cancer vaccine, hepatitis A vaccine can be postponed”.
WHO estimates that vaccines save up to 3 million lives every year. Vaccines not only protect us but also the people around us especially babies, ill people, and immuno-compromised who are unable to receive vaccines in their body and hence depend on the immunity of others to catch and transmit vaccine-preventable diseases to them.
Why is it important for children to be vaccinated, especially during an outbreak of disease?
“During an outbreak like this, flu and influenza vaccines are very important. You must discuss with your pediatrician and immunize the child on a priority basis against these”, advises Sharadha.
Young children are exposed to diseases every day from different places and people, and this can put them at serious risk. The WHO-recommended vaccination schedule is designed to protect infants and young children as early as possible. The vaccination cards given at most health centers during a baby’s birth show the list of vaccines for the child during different periods of its growth. It also mentions when the next vaccines or booster doses are due. It is important to make sure that all these vaccines are administered on time.
Why are some people against vaccination?
“Some people believe that vaccines are not natural. But these dreaded diseases can kill your child and if we have a choice then we should take it. Side effects of vaccines are very less and the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore it is imperative to get children vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable diseases.”
“Vaccine failure does exist in all cases but it is very less. One should look at the success rate as it does protect most of the population while the others develop immunity via herd immunity.”
WHO says that delaying vaccination, increases the risk of getting seriously sick and during a disease outbreak – there may not be enough time for the vaccine to work and to receive all the recommended doses. At present, there may not be a vaccine for COVID 19, but being vaccinated against other diseases and infections means lessening the chance of catching. It also helps in maintaining health and immunity which further helps in resistance towards other infectious health hazards.