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Baby's first year : Immunisation FAQs

Q: What is immunisation?

A: Immunisation helps the body develop protection against a particular disease, so that if at a later stage your body comes in contact with that disease, it will be able to fight it off. You will need immunisation for each disease that you want to develop protection against.

Q: Do I need to pay for my child's immunisations?

A: No. Like all other medications for children, childhood immunisations are free.

Q: How are immunisations given?

A: Apart from polio vaccine which is given orally, all immunisations are given through an injection in the upper arm, thigh or bottom.

Q: Will my child be immunised even if she's feeling unwell?

A: Your child will not be immunised if she is running temperature, has a cold or has had antibiotics in the week prior to when the immunisation was due. In any case, your doctor or health visitor will ensure that all is well and whether your child can have the immunisation or not.

Q: Are there any risks associated with immunisation?

A: All vaccines are tested thoroughly before being introduced. If the vaccine is found to be unsafe, it is withdrawn immediately.

In some cases, a serious reaction to the pertussis vaccine may develop if the child has had convulsions or has a close relative suffering from epilepsy. You will need to discuss this with the doctor beforehand.

Q: How will my child feel after an immunisation?

A: All children react differently to the vaccines. Some develop a slight temperature which can be brought down by giving paracetamol or other recommended drugs. Some children may become irritable as well. The injection site may look red and swollen. All these are normal reactions and not to be too concerned about. However, if the temperature rises above 38 degrees C (100.4 degrees F), you must contact the doctor immediately.

Q: Why do I need to wash my hands after changing my baby's nappy after she's had the polio vaccine?

A: The polio vaccine is passed in the baby's stools for upto six weeks after the vaccination. If you come in contact with it and have not been immunised against it, you are at risk of catching the infection.

Q: Is it true that the oral polio vaccine has been recalled?

A: Only the oral polio vaccine manufactured by the company Medeva/Evans has been recalled as a precautionary measure. All other oral polio vaccines are still being used as part of the immunisation program. Medeva/Evans were using serum from UK beef cattle in the manufacture of the polio vaccine which was a clear breach of the UK and European commission guidelines.

Because of the underlying risk of BSE transmission, the guidelines make it clear that only non-UK source should be used for the bovine material required in the manufacture of the vaccine. However, there is so small a risk to the population immunised with the vaccine manufactured by this company, that it cannot even be quantified. All other brands of oral polio vaccine continue to be used and are advised strongly by the Department of Health.

Q: Are immunisations required only if the infections are widely prevalent where the child is living?

A: This is not true because it is important to immunise your child even if the infection is not widely prevalent. The reason is that if fewer children are immunised, they will contact the infection and pass it on to others and hence a less commonly found infection may turn into an epidemic. Hence, the immunisation program should be followed not only for your child's benefit but also for the benefit of the community.

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