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Immunising Your Baby

Immunising Your Baby

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Immunisations are very important. They protect your baby against infections that can lead to disability or even death. Some vaccines give rise to lifelong immunity upon completion of the full course. Other vaccines have to be given again later in life to maintain your child’s immunity to the disease. This top-up dose is called a booster.

Most babies are fit for immunisations. However, should your baby have high fever or a previous bad reaction to immunisations, he may not be suitable for them. If your baby’s immune system is weak due to illness or medical treatment, live vaccines like MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) or polio must be avoided. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns or doubts.

Some babies may suffer from minor side effects after immunisation. These include fever and soreness or swelling at the site of the injection. Some parents are concerned about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, but there is no evidence to support this.

National immunisation programme

Singapore has a National Childhood and Adolescent Immunisation Programme to give your child the best possible protection from serious infections. It is important that you ensure your child is immunised according to the recommended schedule.

The National Childhood and Adolescent Immunisation Programme covers 12 diseases, with diphtheria and measles immunisations being compulsory by law.

The list of diseases under the programme is as follows:

Tuberculosis (TB)
TB usually attacks the lungs, but it can also infect any other part of the body. If it is not properly treated, it can be fatal. TB spreads through the air.

Hepatitis B
This is a serious viral liver infection that spreads by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of a carrier. Your baby’s first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine will be given soon after birth. In all, there are three doses to take.

Diphtheria
This is a bacterial infection that affects the throat mainly. In more serious cases, it can affect the heart and nerves and block the breathing passage. Diphtheria is very contagious and is potentially life-threatening.

Tetanus
Also known as lockjaw, this affects the body’s muscles and nerves. Without treatment, tetanus can be fatal.

Pertussis (whooping cough)
This is very contagious and can cause serious illness in infants and children. It can lead to pneumonia (lung infection) and brain damage.

Poliomyelitis (Polio)
Often called Polio, this can lead to paralysed and deformed arms or legs.

Measles
A highly contagious viral infection that affects the body’s breathing system. It usually starts with high fever and causes a rash. Lung infection, deafness and brain damage can occur. It is spread through coughing and sneezing and through touching contaminated surfaces. Most people recover completely but some people can get very ill especially if complications arise.

Mumps
A common childhood viral infection that causes the glands that produce saliva (on both sides of the jaw) to swell. It is contagious 1- 2 days before symptoms appear until 1-2 days after they disappear. A serious case of mumps can lead to brain infection, deafness and sterility.

Rubella
Also known as German measles, this is usually mild when it affects children. A rash may appear. Your child should stay at home while sick or up to a week after the rash disappears. Expectant women if affected during early pregnancy may give birth to deaf, blind or mentally retarded babies.

Pneumococcal infection
This disease is common in children under 2 years and the elderly. It can lead to chest, ear and brain infections (which can be potentially fatal).

Human Papillomavirus
The major cause of cervical cancer is a virus called the human papillomavirus. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can infect the cervix, causing the cells to change. In most of the infection cases, the virus clears by itself and the cells return to normal. However, in some cases, the infection can persist and cause the cells to grow in an abnormal way, developing into cervical cancer.

Influenza
Influenza, commonly known as the “flu”, is a contagious disease that can affect anyone including healthy people. It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs), causing inflammation of the mucous membranes. The disease can be deadly to some people who develop life-threatening complications like pneumonia.

Combination vaccines*

These newer childhood vaccine formulations combine vaccines against four, five or six diseases into a single injection. These combination vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective. With the introduction of these vaccines, your child can be protected without the anxiety of multiple injections. The costs of the ‘5-in-1’, ‘6-in-1’ or MMRV vaccines are not subsidised by the government. For more information, speak to your doctor.Optional vaccines

There are also optional vaccines for your baby. Some examples of optional vaccines are Chickenpox, Rotavirus, Hepatitis A, Meningococcal and Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib). It is best that you discuss the need for these vaccines with your doctor and make a decision on whether they would benefit your baby. Bring along your baby’s Health Booklet during the clinic visit to record the immunisation given. For more information regarding immunisations, visit www.hpb.gov.sg or www.nir.hpb.gov.sg.

* The ‘5-in-1’ injection combines vaccines against Diphtheria/Pertussis/Tetanus (DPT), Polio and Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib). The ‘6-in-1’ injection combines vaccines against Diphtheria/Pertussis/Tetanus (DPT), Polio, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib). The MMRV vaccine combines vaccines against four common childhood diseases, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella (also known as chickenpox).

The text of this article was originally published on the website of the Health Promotion Board. Reproduced with some modifications with permission from HPB.

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