Vaccinating children: everything parents need to know about vaccinations
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on preventive vaccination against other diseases. A report by the World Health Organization says that vaccination coverage in April 2020 fell by 15% compared to the beginning of the year. Children were particularly affected, with 25 million missing routine immunizations during the pandemic. Anti-vaccinators also contribute to the deterioration of world vaccination, who, for anti-scientific reasons, spread false information about vaccinations and completely refuse them.
We asked Oleg Togoev, pediatrician, allergist-immunologist and part-time medical director of GMS Clinic to tell the whole truth about vaccination of children. He explained why you should not be afraid of vaccinations, how to prepare for routine immunization, and the difference between domestic and imported components.
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How do you feel about routine vaccinations? Do you recommend that your patients vaccinate their children?
Of course, vaccination is voluntary. But as a father and, more importantly, as a doctor, I have a positive attitude towards immunization and consider it necessary. Therefore, I vaccinate myself, vaccinate my children and recommend doing the same to my patients.
What vaccinations are given to newborns in the hospital? Parents ask: “Why so early? How can a newborn get hepatitis? Is there a risk of infection in the hospital?
In the maternity hospital, two vaccinations are mandatory: against hepatitis B and BCG against tuberculosis. WHO recommends mass vaccinations in all regions where these diseases are prevalent. Russia is one of these countries.
The risk of getting hepatitis B in a newborn is very low, but it exists. Infection occurs through contact with blood. The virus can be passed on to a child if:
- he will need a blood transfusion or organ transplant. Infection is possible if the donor is sick, and the instruments will be poorly sterilized during the operation. The risk of infection in this way is minimal, but it exists.
- mother has hepatitis, but does not know about it, since the disease occurs in the incubation period.
The first hepatitis B vaccine is given to the baby in the first 24 hours of life. Then twice more – at 1 and 6 months.
A three-phase hepatitis vaccination will protect a child up to 18 years of age.
If the risk of contracting hepatitis is unlikely, maybe you should not load the baby with an extra infection?
The advantage of vaccinations in the maternity hospital is that from birth, the baby’s immune system is launched. Vaccination, including against hepatitis B, determines the correct vector for the development of the protective functions of the body, so that in the future they fight other diseases.
When answering questions like this about “extra” vaccinations, I always draw a parallel with allergies. From the first days of life, parents try to protect the baby from any dangers and create the safest possible environment for him. Moms wash sliders at 90 degrees, wash floors with bleach, boil nipples so that not a single bacterium harms their beloved child. But it has been scientifically proven that excessively sterile conditions increase the risk of developing allergies in the future.
Paradoxically, a child needs viruses to protect itself from dangerous diseases. The fact is that a program to increase immunity is genetically built into the body of every baby. For the mechanism to start, it needs viruses and bacteria. When meeting with them, the immune system turns on, begins to produce antibodies and becomes more perfect. Vaccination is the safest option for the body to meet the virus.
What diseases are vaccinated against in the clinic? What is the vaccination calendar for children?
The clinic makes all the necessary vaccinations: whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, pneumococcus, polio. These diseases are especially dangerous for babies, so it is important to protect them as early as possible. The risk of complications from vaccines is minimal, in contrast to the consequences of the disease suffered by the child.
The national vaccination calendar for children is a schedule according to which preventive vaccination is carried out, taking into account the age of the child. The document was approved by order of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. Vaccination is carried out free of charge under the program of compulsory medical insurance (CMI).
Why get vaccinated against diseases that are already well treated? For example, the same chickenpox: children easily tolerate it.
It is a misconception that chickenpox is a harmless disease. It causes complications in the form of encephalitis, can leave scars on the skin and can quickly infect a large number of people: both children and adults. Separately, it should be said about pregnant women who can get chickenpox from children and transmit the infection to the fetus. In utero, this can cause congenital pathologies in the baby.
Chickenpox is treated, but most often, according to the law of meanness, a child gets sick at the most inopportune moment: before an important event or a long-awaited vacation. Why isolate yourself for two weeks, worry about complications, if you can prevent the disease with the help of timely vaccination.
Are there any contraindications when a child should not be vaccinated? Should I postpone vaccination if my child has a cold?
There are very few such contraindications. These include:
- congenital immunodeficiency, when live vaccines containing a weakened but pathogenic virus are contraindicated.
- recent infection. If the child has just been ill, I recommend delaying the vaccination for 2-4 weeks.
- fever, feeling unwell in a child – wait a few days.
If the baby has a prolonged runny nose or a cold with adenoids, the symptoms will not go anywhere. In this case, it makes no sense to postpone the planned vaccination.
Today, the issue of vaccination is being discussed especially sharply due to the coronavirus pandemic. Has the new reality affected the situation with the vaccination of children?
Unfortunately, the WHO data correspond to the real picture. People were afraid to go to health facilities for no reason, and the immunization rate for children dropped sharply. The Union of Pediatricians of Russia and all international pediatric groups recommended not to reduce the rate of vaccination despite the coronavirus. But I personally know that some colleagues put off vaccinating patients, and I think this was done in vain. For 2 years of the pandemic, cases of measles and polio infection have become more frequent.