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Baby Clinic - Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSWhy do children need so many shots?
 
Some of us may have gotten only 3 vaccines as children: DTP, polio, and smallpox. There were no vaccines for measles, chickenpox, mumps, and other diseases — which meant that many of us also got those diseases! Over the years scientists have developed vaccines against more diseases, and we give them to our children to protect them from those diseases. Children don’t get smallpox vaccine any more because we have eradicated the disease. Within our lifetimes, we may also eradicate polio, and then that vaccine too will no longer be needed. More combination vaccines may also reduce the number of shots children will need. At the same time, vaccines may be developed to protect us against even more diseases.
 
Why are vaccines given at such an early age
 
?Vaccines are given at an early age because the diseases they prevent can strike at an early age. Some diseases are far more serious or common among infants or young children. For example, up to 60% of severe disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b occurs in children under 12 months of age. Of children under 6 months of age who get pertussis, 72% must be hospitalized, and 84% of all deaths from pertussis are among children less than 6 months of age. The ages at which vaccines are recommended are not arbitrary. They are chosen to give children the earliest and best protection against disease.
 
What if my child misses a dose of vaccine?
 
They can continue the series where they left off. Vaccinations do not have to be repeated when there is a longer-than-recommended interval between doses.
 
How safe are vaccines?
 
They are very safe, but like any medicine, they are not perfect. They can cause reactions. Usually these are mild, like a sore arm or slight fever. Serious reactions are very uncommon. Your health-care provider will discuss the risks with you before your child gets each vaccine, and will give you a form called a Vaccine Information Statement, which describes the vaccine’s benefits and risks. The important thing to remember is that getting vaccines is much safer than getting the diseases they prevent.
 
Do vaccines always work?
 
Vaccines work most of the time, but not always. Most childhood vaccinations work between 90% and 100% of the time. Sometimes, though, a child may not respond to certain vaccines, for reasons that aren’t entirely understood. This is one reason why it is important for all children to be immunized. A child who does not respond to a vaccine has to depend on the immunity of others around her for protection. If my child is immune to measles, he can’t infect your child who failed to respond to measles vaccine, but if my child never got the vaccine, he can not only get measles himself, he can pass it along to others who are not immune.
 
What will happen if my child doesn’t get his vaccinations?
 
One of two things could happen:1. If your child goes through life without ever being exposed to any of these diseases, nothing will happen. 2. If your child is exposed to one of these diseases, there is a good chance he will get it. What happens then depends on the child and the disease. Most likely he would get ill and have to stay in bed for a few days up to 1–2 weeks, but he could also get very sick and have to go to the hospital. At the very worst, he could die. In addition, he could also spread the disease to other children or adults who are not immune.
 
What are my child’s chances of being exposed to one of these diseases?
 
Overall, quite low. Some of these diseases have become very rare in the United States (thanks to immunizations), so the chances of exposure are small. Others, such as varicella and pertussis, are still relatively common. Some are rare in the U.S. but common elsewhere in the world, so there is risk not only to travellers, but also to anyone exposed to travellers from other countries visiting here.If my child’s risk of exposure to disease is so low, why should I bother getting him immunized?This is a good question. One answer, of course, is that even if the risk of getting these diseases is low, it is not zero. If only one child in the whole country gets diphtheria this year, that child has a 1 in 10 chance of dying. Vaccination would have protected him, but there is also another answer.Even if disease rates are low now, if we stopped vaccinating they wouldn’t remain low for very long. We know this because it has already happened in several countries, including Great Britain and Japan. For instance, in 1974, about 80% of Japanese children were being vaccinated against pertussis. That year Japan had only 393 pertussis cases and no deaths, but then there was a national scare about the safety of pertussis vaccine, and over the next few years the vaccination rate dropped to about 10%. In 1979 the country suffered a major pertussis epidemic with more than 13,000 cases and 41 deaths. When routine vaccination was reinstated, disease rates dropped again. Without the protection afforded by a highly immunized population, diseases could make a comeback here too.
 
What ingredients go into vaccines, and why?
 
The major ingredient of any vaccine is a killed or weakened form of the disease organism the vaccine is designed to prevent. Therefore, measles vaccine is mostly measles virus. Pneumococcal vaccine is mostly the surface coating from pneumococcal bacteria.
 
What to Do if Your Child Has a Reaction?
 
Most children do not have any reactions to vaccines. Among those who do, the large majority are minor local reactions (pain, swelling or redness at the injection site) or a mild fever. These go away within a day or two and don’t normally require any special treatment.
 
But what if your child has a more serious reaction, such as a severe allergic reaction?
 
Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat or dizziness. If your child shows these symptoms after getting vaccinations — or if she shows other unusual symptoms, such as a high fever or behavior changes — don’t hesitate:  Call a doctor or get the child to a doctor right away.Tell your doctor what happened, the date and time it happened, and when the vaccination was given.For More InformationWith the Parents’ Guide we have tried to give you the important facts about immunization in a relatively small package. Naturally we have not been able to include everything. The short section about immunity is a simplified explanation of a much more complex process. Whole books have been written on topics we try to cover in a page or two.If you would like to learn more about childhood diseases and immunization, 
Sanofi Pasteur has a dedicated Vaccine Helpline which will be able to assist you with all your queries.
Vaccine Helpline: 0860 160 160
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