By Adamos Chatzipanagis
What have vaccinations offered to humanity?
Since the beginning of the use of vaccines in order to prevent diseases, humanity has managed to shed many lethal illnesses, such as diphtheria and tetanus. At the same time, serious childhood illnesses, like measles, polio and mumps have been limited.
Why do children suffer frequent infections?
At birth, children have antibodies (these are defensive weapons of their organisms against diseases) against many diseases, which they have acquired from their mothers. Indeed, if the infant is breastfeeding, then she will continue receiving antibodies from the mother through milk. These antibodies are reduced after the first 3-6 months. Then the child is exposed to microbes and has to create her own antibodies. This process is slow during the first time, and the antibodies that are produced are not enough.
So what do vaccines do?
With vaccines we introduce to the body the same microorganism (virus or microbe) dead or weakened, or an antigen (“piece”) of the microorganism. This way we stimulate the body to produce its own antibodies, which are directed against the specific microbe or virus. So, if the specific microorganism attempts to enter the child’s body in the future, the antibodies that already exist will neutralize it, and your child will not get sick.
Do vaccines have complications?
Some parents are afraid to vaccinate their child because of the probability of complications. Indeed, there may be complications, but these are very rare, and the complications that may cause an irreversible problem to the child are even rarer. On the contrary, if you do not vaccinate your child and the child gets sick, then the risk of complications is significant, and there is possibility of death.
Can the vaccine cause the disease against which it is supposed to protect the child?
Vaccines containing dead microorganisms or a piece of the microorganism cannot cause the disease. Vaccines containing weakened microorganisms, such as the vaccine of measles-mumps-rubella, can very rarely cause a light form of the disease.
Since other children will be vaccinated, why should I vaccinate my child?
It is true that if everyone else is vaccinated, then there is no significant risk for your child either. Yes, but if everyone thinks this way, then no one will be vaccinated. Indeed, 100% vaccination to all the population is almost never achieved, so there is a possibility that your child gets in contact with a patient. So, the best precaution is vaccination. If a vaccine is given to less than 80% of the children, an epidemic of the disease is likely to occur.
If my child is vaccinated, will he be 100% protected from the disease?
NO. Very few medications have 100% success in medicine. However vaccinations may have the highest percentages (85-99%). It is worth undergoing this minor pain, in order not to have a rough time or be jeopardized by the disease.
Can the child have complications from the vaccinations?
YES, but usually complications are very mild, like pain-redness-inflammation at the area of the injection. Allergic reactions or seizures are very rare. At the same time vaccines are continually improved and become safer.
Since the disease for which the child is vaccinated has disappeared (e.g. tetanus), why should I vaccinate the child?
Because a disease may have disappeared from our country, but it may exist in other countries. With population movement it is easy to also transfer the specific disease, if our population is not well vaccinated. Only if a disease disappears from the whole world will we have the right to stop vaccinations.
For how long does vaccination protect my child?
It depends on the vaccine. There are some vaccines that need a booster dose at regular intervals, like for example the vaccine of tetanus, which needs a booster dose every ten years in adult life.
You will get more information from your paediatrician, because vaccination schedules are constantly changing according to the studies that are elaborated.