World Immunization Day: Everything about vaccines you need to know


According to the WHO (World Health Organization), close to 3 million deaths are averted every year by vaccination. It is vital for babies to get vaccinated as they lack a well-developed immune system and face a high risk of getting infected by harmful microbes. So to help you out with the vaccination, here is a brief profile of various vaccines and information about when they should be given. Here are 10 important facts you should know.

BCG Vaccine

A single dose of the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine protects against tuberculosis. In India, this vaccine is given to babies just after birth. Sometimes, a small red lump may develop in a few days at the injection site but this clears up on its own, leaving a small scar.

Oral Polio Vaccine

The oral polio vaccine is useful to protect children against polio or poliomyelitis – an infectious viral disease that attacks the nervous system. In some cases, this infection can cause paralysis of the legs and this condition is an irreversible one. In India, polio vaccination is mandatory for every child up to the age of 5 years. Five doses are given during the first year and booster doses are administered during the second and fifth year following childbirth.

Under the National Pulse Polio Campaign, two additional doses of the oral polio vaccine are given to children below five years of age – even those who have received the prescribed routine doses of the vaccine. If a child who receives the vaccine develops difficulty in breathing, hoarseness of voice, dizziness or increased heartbeat, it could be an indication of an allergic reaction and it is best to consult a doctor at once.

DPT Vaccine

During the first year of a child’s life, three doses of the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough and tetanus) vaccine should be given. This has to be followed by a booster dose that is given during the second and fifth years. Here’s why every child should be immunized.

As the tetanus bacterium is commonly found in dust, mud and soil, it is recommended to get your child vaccinated to prevent infections due to injury. In some cases, fever, slight swelling, pain and redness at the site of injection may develop a few hours following vaccination. Doctors recommend administration of paracetamol to overcome these effects, but if they persist even after a day or two, it is best to visit a doctor immediately.


Measles is one of the most infectious diseases that can affect children and in some case may lead to death because there is no cure for this disease. Therefore, the only option to protect your child from measles is to get vaccinated at the age of nine months.

In recent times, it is a common practice to administer the MMR vaccine that protects against measles as well as mumps and rubella (German measles). This vaccine is believed to provide life long immunity against these three diseases when given as two doses – the first one around 12 to 15 months of age and the second one when the child is around 4 to 6 years of age. Although separate vaccines are available, the combination is more preferred because it avoids the need for repeated injections.

Optional Vaccines

While the vaccines mentioned above are a must, there are few additional vaccines for diseases that cause discomfort, but are not life-threatening. Also the fact that they are very costly may be responsible for fewer people using them. These include –

Hepatitis B vaccine: It is one such vaccine that was optional but with this condition being responsible for close to 80 percent of liver cancers, the Indian health ministry has decided to make it a part of the National Immunisation Programme. The first shot has to be given at birth and subsequent doses when the infant is 6, 10 and 14 weeks old. Here’s what expert has to say about vaccines for your child!

Varicella or chickenpox vaccine: Many people prefer not to give this vaccine because it is not a life-threatening disease. Also, the fact that once infected, the body develops a natural, life-long immunity against it. However, if a woman has not got chickenpox during her childhood, some doctors may recommend having the shot to prevent the chance of catching it during pregnancy.

Hib vaccine: This vaccine is given to prevent infections caused by Haemophilus influenza type B that can result in childhood diseases such as pneumonia, bacterial meningitis and septicemia. In some states of India, Hib vaccine is available in combination with DPT and hepatitis B, which is known as pentavalent vaccine (a single vaccine offering protection against 5 illnesses). This vaccine is given to infants at age of 6, 10 and 14 weeks respectively.

Vaccines for Adults

Vaccines are commonly associated with children, but even adults need protection against certain diseases. The most common ones include –

A tetanus booster dose when you hurt yourself and a Hepatitis B vaccination as a preventive measure against liver cancer.
Every girl should be vaccinated for HPV vaccine after she starts menstruating (11 – 12 years) as it offers protection against uterine cancer.
People with chronic lung disease or asthma, senior citizens with lower immunity, diabetics and people undergoing chemotherapy or HIV-infected individuals should consider the pneumococcal vaccine for prevention against swine flu.

Vaccination shots may be painful but the temporary discomfort is nothing in comparison to the life-long immunity you receive against dangerous illnesses. So make sure you stick to the vaccination schedule prescribed by your doctor to ensure a long and healthy life for your loved ones. Bored of reading? Go through the gallery to know what not to miss out on vaccines for your child.

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