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Children's Health

6 Secrets to a long and productive life: important vaccines

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.



Whether you’re only a few hours old or a full grown adult, there are a number of vaccines that protect from disease particularly in babies who are most vulnerable. To provide them immunity against these diseases, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months. During this period, they are given vaccines, also called immunization, to help them develop their own protective mechanisms.

The national programme of immunization (NPI) schedule ensures a better chance of survival for children by making these vaccines available at no cost at centres all over the country. These vaccines may be produced from a part of the virus or bacteria, or be a live virus that has been made weak and unable to cause infection.

1. Oral Polio vaccine – OPV is given as a drop on a new-born’s tongue to protect from Polio. Polio is a dreadful disease that causes paralysis and life long disability. It is also taken at about 6, 10 and 14 weeks, and at 15-18 months, making 5 doses.

2. BCG vaccine – protects against Tuberculosis. Many have the scar on their right arms, shoulder area as evidence of receiving this vaccine during childhood. It is usually given from the first day of life as an injection in the shoulder.

3. Hepatitis B vaccine – HbV was recently added to the schedule to protect children as soon as they are born, from liver disease, liver cancer and death at a young age. Hepatitis B is transmitted from chronic carriers (people who do not have any features of the disease but carry the virus in their bodies) to unsuspecting, unprotected others. It is taken at birth and later on in combination with four other vaccines.

4. Pentavalent vaccine – this is a combination of Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB), Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus (previously known as DPT) and Hepatitis B vaccines. This 5-in-1 vaccine is taken in 3 doses at about 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. HiB protects against an organism that commonly causes meningitis in young children. Meningitis refers to infection and swelling of the coverings of the brain which can be fatal. Diphtheria, caused by a bacteria, is a deadly infection of the breathing tube in the neck and the lungs. Pertussis is whopping cough that can be severe in babies and causes terrible coughing fits. Tetanus usually results from infection of a deep and dirty wound and is deadly and best avoided. The Tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccine, on it’s own, is taken every 10 years as booster, and given routinely to pregnant women.

5. Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine – MMR is a combination of vaccines against these 3 diseases taken at 15-18 months. Together, they protect against severe, brain-destructive forms of measles, male sterility caused by mumps virus, and the deadly rubella. The measles vaccine is also taken separately at 9 months, along with the Yellow fever vaccine.

6. Yellow fever vaccine – is taken at 9 months and requires a booster dose every 10 years. Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes and very deadly.

A mother can infect her baby, siblings or co-workers can spread infection to one another, hence, the need to be protected. You should bear in mind that the vaccines can cause transient fever and irritability. And in people with allergies for example, egg allergies, some vaccines are best avoided. The vaccines listed above are freely available unlike some others which are discussed in another post.
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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo