Baby Immunization Schedule – Here’s What To Expect

Baby immunization refers to the process where a baby receives vaccines in order to protect them against specific diseases, thus giving them immunity. A vaccine is a weakened version of the germs that cause the disease for which the baby needs vaccination.

After immunization, the vaccines stimulate the baby’s immune system to build up antibodies against the diseases. This way, the babies remain protected from getting the disease if and when they get the actual disease. Over the past few years, there have been concerns over the safety of vaccines for babies. Research shows that vaccination saves babies’ lives. In fact, according to the CDC, vaccines administered to babies are very safe. Some babies may experience mild side effects, but these tend to pass with time. What’s more, the benefits of getting babies vaccinated far outweigh the risk of not getting vaccination.

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This is because vaccines prevent babies from getting infectious diseases that once wiped away communities. In the absence of these vaccines, babies are at a high risk of serious infections, intense pain, permanent disability and even death. Simply put, the benefits of vaccines are far much greater than the side effects for almost all babies. The exception for this occurs when a baby’s immunity is already compromised, or when they have suffered a serious allergic reaction to vaccines given before. With this in mind, below are some of the benefits of baby vaccinations.

Top 5 benefits of Baby Immunization

  1. Vaccinating your baby ensures that they are healthy and get protection from preventable diseases. Some of the complications that arise from these diseases may include limb amputation, paralysis, convulsions, hearing and sight loss, damage to the brain, and in the worst cases, death.
  2. Vaccines are safe and effective for the different diseases for which they are meant to offer protection. These vaccines are reviewed to ensure they meet quality requirements as set by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
  3. Vaccination not only protects the baby, but also those who are around the baby – family and friends. When children have not undergone vaccination, they can easily spread diseases to other children. This poses a risk, especially for vulnerable persons with a weakened immune system.
  4. Vaccination helps families save time and money. Children who do not receive vaccination are at risk of debilitating diseases. In some cases such as polio, the children may suffer disability that takes a financial toll on families in terms of long-term care and hospital bills.
  5. Vaccination helps to protect future generations. This works, as is the case with smallpox globally. Smallpox is a disease that was characterized by fatigue and very high fever, followed by rashes on the skin. These rashes would typically fill with fluid, form pus before drying up. Small pox was one of the most fatal diseases up until it was officially eradicated in 1979, after a successful vaccination globally. This is evident that vaccination not only protects the present generation, but also generations to come.

Baby Immunization schedule

In Kenya, the baby immunization schedule is provided by the Division of Vaccines and Immunizations (abbreviated DVI), that falls under the Ministry of Health. It is most commonly referred to as KEPI (Kenya Expanded Programme on Immunization). It is important to know that there are extra vaccines often provided by private healthcare facilities, but which may not be included in the schedule below.

Baby Immunization schedule
Immunization Schedule

Additional Vaccines

  1. The Flu vaccine (administered at 6 and 7 months)
  2. Meningitis (To prevent Meningitis, administered at 9 and 11 months)
  3. MMR – (Measles, Mumps, Rubella – prevents these three diseases, and is administered at 15 months)
  4. Typhoid vaccine (prevents typhoid, administered at 24 months)

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Common Diseases for which Baby Immunization is done

Polio

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. The virus enters the body orally before multiplying in the intestine. Its symptoms include high fever, exhaustion, vomiting and headache. It is also accompanied by neck stiffness and pain in the limbs. About 0.5% of polio infections lead to permanent paralysis, usually in the legs. In severe cases, the virus attacks the muscles that are used for breathing, leading to death.

Tuberculosis (TB)

TB is a highly contagious disease that typically attacks the lungs, but can easily affect other parts of the body such as the brain, bones and joints. TB is spread through the air when infected people sneeze, cough or spit. TB symptoms include a cough that lasts for more than 21 days, bloody cough, fatigue, chest pain, sudden weight loss as well as night sweats.

The BCG vaccine is given as close to birth as possible, and is an integral part of the baby immunization schedule. It is administered to infants as a single dose injection on the left forearm. The vaccine leaves a distinct scar, and is indication that one has received the vaccine.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an acute illness that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. Its symptoms include acute jaundice, extreme fatigue, general malaise and tenderness in the upper quadrant. It is important to note that none of these symptoms are common in infants. Global infant immunization is known to be a reliable strategy for the control of Hepatitis B virus infection.

Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus

Diphtheria is a life-threatening infection that spreads from one person to another through close physical contact or droplets in the air.

Pertussis is also a life-threatening childhood disease most commonly referred to as whooping cough. Pertussis is highly contagious, and affects the respiratory system. It is mainly characterized by persistent fits of coughing that continue for about 14 days.

Tetanus is a bacterial disease whose bacterium enters through cuts, open wounds, and in newborns, the stump that forms after the umbilical cord is cut. Additionally, neonatal tetanus occurs when babies are born in poor sanitary conditions. The disease causes muscle spasms that complicate the breathing and feeding process. In the absence of urgent medical care, tetanus results in death.

NOTE: Of all he vaccine-preventable diseases, Tetanus is the only disease that is not spread from person to person.

Pneumonia/Meningitis

The pneumococcal vaccine prevents pneumonia, meningitis and bacteremia. Pneumonia is a lower respiratory infection. In a small percentage of those affected, the infection spreads to the blood, leading to septicaemia (blood infection) and meningitis. Children below two years present a vulnerable population to the pneumococcal disease.

Haemophilus Influenzae B (HiB)

This bacterium mainly causes pneumonia, but may also result in meningitis and bactermeia – both of which are very severe. In the event that death does not occur, affected persons experience neurological disability.

Measles

Measles is an acute and highly infectious viral disease that is mainly spread through respiratory contact. One of the first symptoms is a high fever, which is usually followed by red watery eyes, persistent cough and runny nose. One of the key symptoms that is associated with Measles is the presence of tiny whitish spots on the inside cheeks, known as Koplick spots. These spots are then followed by a rash that advances to the lower parts of the body.

Rotavirus

The rotavirus causes diarrhoea and vomiting, placing infected children at a high risk of dehydration. Left untreated, rotavirus causes death. It is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea across the world. The rotavirus vaccine is the only way to prevent severe diarrhoea from the virus.

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever is a viral haemorrhagic fever that is transmitted by mosquitoes. The use of ‘yellow’ to describe the condition is attributed to the jaundice that some affected persons will show. Other symptoms include chills, sudden onset of fever, pain in the muscles as well as nausea and vomiting. Since there is no specific anti-viral medication to manage the condition, patients are taken through supportive therapy to help them recover. It is also important to note that the vaccine may have adverse reactions, and should not be given to babies below six months of age.

Fact: A Yellow Fever outbreak in Kerio Valley back in 1992 led to mass vaccination. Due to this occurrence, Kenya is still classified as a high-risk country. This is why all travellers from Kenya are required to get the Yellow Fever Certificate as proof of immunization.

Keep a record of baby immunization

Most babies will complete their immunizations by five years of age. Since the vaccines are administered at different times, and in different combinations, it helps to keep track of the shots the baby receives. Most health care facilities will provide Maternal and Child booklets to offer guidance on maternal and child health, like the one shown below.  These books have pages to record baby immunization shots as your little one receives them.

Resources

The 2013 Kenya National Policy on Immunization (link)

Featured Image (source)