Vaccinations and immunizations are important to the health of a child. In simple terms, a vaccine is a drug that protects your child from getting a particular illness.
The objective of the National Immunization Program (NIP) in the UAE is to protect all eligible children against Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD) and sustain such protection through adolescence and adulthood with the view of reducing the disease burden in the community. The Program includes:
- immunization services for infants and children,
- school immunization services,
- international travel related vaccination such as for Haj Pilgrims and
- services for high risk groups such as :
- immune compromised individuals,
- vaccines for special professions and
- vaccination for control of communicable disease outbreaks
Newborn babies are especially vulnerable because their bodies have not built up the necessary defenses to fight infection. By following the prescribed program of vaccinations, you will not only help protect your own child but those of other parents by preventing the spread of disease. A vaccination health record should be started at birth when your child receives his/her first vaccinations, and then updated with each additional vaccination. This document is an important element in his/her medical record and is very useful when your child enrolls in a school or if the family moves to a new area or country.
Some vaccines are given to your child only once, while other vaccines require multiple doses. Today there are vaccines for almost all children's illnesses. By starting immunization at birth, most of the vaccinations will be completed by the age of two.
The immunization services are available from government and private sector hospitals, clinics, Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Mother and Child Clinics for childhood immunization services and the Preventive Medicine Department in the districts for the travel related vaccines, immune-compromised individuals and outbreak control.
As the number of separate vaccines increased combination vaccines such as Pentavalent vaccine (5 vaccines in 1 injection) was introduced 2005. The Injectable Polio Vaccine was introduced in 2008, the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV7) in 2009 and has now been updated to PCV13. The latest combination vaccine to be added to the repertoire is the Hexavalent vaccine which combines 6 vaccines in 1 injection. The future plans include inclusion of vaccines recommended by World Health Organization such as Rotavirus vaccine, Cervical cancer vaccine and Varicella (Chicken Pox) vaccine.
The National Immunization Program in UAE has already elicited substantial impact on target Vaccine Preventable Diseases especially Neonatal tetanus, Polio and Measles. The current National Immunization Schedule for children of the Ministry of Health, Jan 2011 is as follows:
Other optional vaccinations include:
Chicken Pox, Hepatitis A 1 and 2, Prevnar 1 and 2, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Influenza, Polio, Gardacil, Diptheria and Tetanus. An influenza vaccination is also recommended annually. The Prevnar protects your child against seven strains of a mircrob that causes serious blood infections. Gardacil protects girls from acquiring infections with certain strains of Paapilloma virus that can lead to cervical cancer.
How do vaccinations work?
When you get an infection, your body reacts by producing antibodies, which fight the disease and help you to get over your illness. They usually stay in your system even after the disease has gone and protect you from getting the same disease again; this is called ‘immunity’.
Newborn babies are immune to many diseases because they receive antibodies from their mothers but this immunity wears off within the first six months after birth. By vaccinating children, we can maintain their immunity to many diseases even after they lose their mother’s antibodies.
The vaccines themselves are developed by creating a variation in the disease in order to trick the body into thinking it is under attack by the disease. The body then reacts by producing antibodies, which then stay in the body so that if the child is eventually exposed to the real disease, he/she is then protected from it. Vaccines are generally safe and serious reactions are very rare. There can be side effects with any vaccination and the most common are fever or pain at the site of the injection. However, the risk from serious disease is far higher than from any reaction to a vaccination or any side effects, and so vaccines remain a vital part of the defense against disease and infection for your baby.