Saturday February 16 2013

Vaccination beyond the six killer diseases

Vaccination beyond the six killer diseases


By Derrick Nomujuni

It is every parent’s dream to see their children grow up and achieve their full potential. But, like everything else in childhood, the immune (body’s defence) system of children is not fully developed yet they are exposed to different germs throughout their lives on a regular basis. Hence, a vaccine may be the only difference between life and death at this stage of development.

For instance, last year between September 2011 and June 2012, a measles epidemic broke out where a staggering 3000 cases were reported with over 100 deaths. It was found that the majority of the children who died were not vaccinated.

The vaccines a child should get
According to Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a senior paediatrician at Mulago Referral Hospital, vaccines are one of the single most public health interventions ever created by man and there is no doubt that they protect against the killer diseases (measles, polio, whopping cough, tetanus, Tb and diphtheria).

On top of immunisation for the known six killer diseases, however, there are “new” vaccines the Ministry of Health recently recommended, and these include:

The hemophilus influenza vaccine
Hib, as the vaccine is also reffered to, provides protection against the hemophilus influenza Type B bacteria, which was found to be responsible for a large proportion of the pneumonia and meningitis cases in children younger than five years.

Hepatitis B [hep B] vaccine
This protects against this very contagious virus that is much more infectious and lethal in comparison to HIV. The virus not only causes liver damage but also ultimately leads to liver cancer that has no cure other than acquiring a new liver.

According to Dr Mworozi Edison, also a senior consultant paediatrician, more vaccines that are yet to be added to the national schedule include;

Rota virus vaccine
Given orally, this one offers protection against the rota virus, which is responsible for a large proportion of the diarrhoea in children. Although not yet on the national schedule, this vaccine is available in some hospitals, at a fee, and is recommended for all children under two years of age.

Pneumococcal vaccine
The vaccine provides protection against a bacterium, S. pneumonia, responsible for a big number of the cases of pneumonia in young children under five years. However, it is recommended for children above two years.

Dr Kitaka says she looks forward to this vaccine being incorporated into the national schedule as a child dies from this ailment every five seconds.

Human papilloma virus vaccine-HPV
The HPV vaccine gives immunity against the virus that is implicated in the development of cervical cancer and genital warts, hence reducing the likelihood of getting this cancer during adulthood. The vaccine is currently ideal for men and women between 13 and 25 years.

Chickenpox vaccine
This is administered to protect against the viral disease known as chicken pox caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is given in two doses under the skin (subcutaneously) and is recommended for all children under 13 or for everyone above 13 who has never had chicken pox.

Meningococcal/meningitis vaccine
It is aimed at giving immunity against a bacterium called Neisseria meningitides, known to cause severe infection of blood, pneumonia and a deadly form of meningitis. It is recommended for children between six weeks and 18 months.

Measles, mumps, rubella vaccine
This vaccine offers three in one protection against measles, mumps and rubella viruses and is given after one year with a booster dose just before joining school. Mumps may affect both testes and cause possible sterility.

Rubella, also called German measles, is a serious cause of blindness and deafness in infants especially if it is acquired from the mother. Therefore, it is also important for pregnant women to get screened for this debilitating illness.

All these vaccines are available in some hospitals at a fee even if they may not be inculcated into the national schedule yet.

Dr Kitaka encourages parents to take their children for vaccination as a completely immunised child is likely to grow into full adulthood without frequently becoming ill and therefore have bigger chances of succeeding in life.

Vaccinations are a fundamental right that every child should have.