Babies are not born with a fully developed immune system. They do have some protection as the disease-fighting antibodies from the mother cross the placenta and enter the baby’s body. These antibodies provide immunity to the baby for 3 to 6 months. The mother’s milk also contains antibodies that protect the baby from diseases. However, there are several life-threatening infectious diseases that these antibodies cannot protect the baby from. Therefore, babies need to be immunized against such diseases.
Immunisation is very important for babies as this is the only way they can be protected from serious infections. Worldwide, over 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. If you still have doubts the importance of vaccines, look no further. We have answered all the questions about vaccination that might be troubling you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Vaccines
With all the conflicting information available about immunisation and the good and the bad associated with it, it can be difficult for new parents to make a decision about whether to vaccinate their child. There are several questions that first-time parents may have about vaccines. Some frequently asked questions about immunization and vaccines include:
1. Why Are Vaccines Important?
Vaccines are very important as they are the only way to protect your newborn from a variety of serious infectious diseases that can be life-threatening. Vaccines can prevent babies from getting diseases like diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, chicken pox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib). They also protect babies from rotavirus that is known to cause severe gastroenteritis and diarrhoea and from pneumococcal disease.
2. What Happens If You Don’t Vaccinate Your Child?
If you do not vaccinate your baby, she will be vulnerable to infectious diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. ‘Herd immunity’ is when a child is protected from a disease if 90% of people from the community have had vaccinations. If some parents do not get their babies vaccinated, the disease may still prevail. Also, a country’s vaccination program can only be successful if the entire community participates. This way, diseases can be eradicated.
3. How Do Vaccines Work? Do They Work Against Viruses & Bacteria?
Vaccines contain agents resembling the disease-causing microorganisms like viruses or bacteria. They may also be made of killed forms of the microbe, toxins from the microbe or surface proteins from the microbe. The agent in the vaccine helps in stimulating the baby’s immune system to recognize it as a threat and eliminate it. It also stimulates the immune response such that all microbes associated with that agent are destroyed even if they infect the body in future. Vaccines work against both viruses and bacteria. When an infectious microorganism or a microbial agent in the vaccine enters the body, the immune system creates antibodies that fight-off and destroy the microbe. These antibodies remain in the body long after the illness. If the same microbe infects you again, the antibodies will recognize the microbe and destroy it before it can make you sick.
4. Are All Vaccines 100% Effective?
Vaccines are designed to protect one from future attacks of the same infection. However, the immune system of some may not produce a satisfactory response. Hence, this person is not fully protected even after immunisation. However, most vaccines are highly effective. For example, on getting the MMR vaccine, 99.7% people are immune to measles. The polio vaccine is 99% effective after 3 doses, and the varicella vaccine is 100% effective in preventing chicken pox.
5. What Are the Side Effects of Vaccination?
All vaccines have side effects. Most of these side effects are mild, such as pain at the injection site, low-grade fever, and headaches. However, serious side effects such as allergic reactions are possible, though these are extremely rare. It is important to keep in mind that not vaccinating a baby can make your baby prone to contracting life-threatening diseases.
6. What If Your Child Already Has One of the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases?
If your child has a vaccine-preventable disease, it is advisable to immunize the child against it. It is crucial, as babies less than 2 years of age will not develop adequate natural immunity after an illness with Hib or pneumococcal disease.
7. Can You Vaccinate If Your Child is Sick?
If the baby has a cold or mild fever, you can go ahead with the vaccination. The vaccination should not be given to babies who have a high fever. Babies who are undergoing a medical treatment and those who have a weak immune system should also not be given a vaccine.
8. Can Allergic Children Be Vaccinated?
Your doctor will ascertain if the baby’s allergy exceeds the protection given by the vaccination. For example, the influenza vaccine contains egg proteins. If a child is allergic to egg proteins, the child can still be safely vaccinated.
9. Is Natural Immunity Better Than Immunization-Acquired Immunity?
Natural immunity provides better immunity than vaccines. However, getting the disease naturally can cause complications. This is because the dose of microbes and the duration of the disease are bigger than natural immunization.
10. Are Alternative Immunization Schedules Okay?
There has been no evidence suggesting that spacing the vaccine shots cause harm to a baby. Besides, the child’s immune system is able to respond easily to multiple vaccines. Hence, there is no issue in giving more than 1 vaccine a day.
11. Can Vaccines Cause Autism?
Extensive research has shown that vaccinations do not cause autism. For example, there have been studies comparing children who received the MMR vaccine with children who have not been vaccinated. Researchers found that the risk of autism in both groups was the same, meaning that autism is not caused by the MMR vaccine. A similar study was done comparing thousands of children who had the influenza vaccine with children that had not been vaccinated. Researchers found that the risk of becoming autistic was the same in both groups. This clearly showed that the vaccine does not lead to autism.
12. Can a Baby’s Immune System Handle So Many Vaccines?
A baby’s immune system is capable of responding to more than one vaccine. So, the baby can be given more than one vaccine in a day. Also, newborns already face challenges to their immune systems. They have to fight off thousands of bacteria and viruses from the moment they are born. Babies have millions of immune cells in their bodies. Thus, babies are capable of handling several vaccines.
13. Can We Do Safety Testing with Vaccines?
For each vaccine to be approved, the manufacturer must prove the purity, potency, and safety. Also, vaccines are repeatedly tested for safety and are continuously monitored for harmful reactions even after being approved.
14. Why There is a New Flu Vaccine Every Year?
The type of influenza viruses that circulate is constantly changing. Unlike chickenpox virus which never changes, influenza viruses keep changing. Hence, a flu shot each year gives you protection from a whole new group of influenza viruses. This is the reason why there is a new flu shot every year.
15. Can Vaccinations Cause Type1 Diabetes?
Research has shown that type 1 diabetes is not caused by any vaccination. Several health organisations have studied this extensively and found no link between vaccination in childhood and later development of type 1 diabetes.
Vaccines can prevent a host of serious infectious diseases. Vaccines are completely safe. If everyone vaccinates their babies, it is possible to eradicate some diseases. For example, smallpox was eradicated after continuous immunization of people over the years. Therefore, it is important to vaccinate your babies and give them a chance to develop immunity against life-threatening diseases.
Also Read: Childhood Vaccinations for Various Diseases