Your Child’s Vaccinations
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This post is also available in: Arabic
Your Child’s Vaccinations
You want the best for your child. That means keeping him happy, safe, and most of all, healthy. Keeping a child healthy means more than just feeding him right and dressing him warmly – it also includes ensuring that he gets regular medical care. Regular medical care means more than just routine check-ups and taking your child to the doctor when he’s sick. It also means ensuring that he or she gets the vaccinations needed on time.
What are vaccines and why are they important?
Vaccines protect children against life-threatening infectious diseases. A vaccine is a substance that stimulates a child’s immune system to recognize and defend the body against a virus or bacteria that can cause a disease. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce “memory cells” to the virus or bacteria. If the child is later exposed to this virus or bacteria, these memory cells are activated and attack the virus or bacteria very quickly, thus preventing the child from getting sick.
What vaccines should my child have?
See the table below for required compulsory vaccines in Egypt. Parents should always keep a record of their child’s vaccinations, starting from birth.
Explanation of abbreviations:
• BCG = vaccine against tuberculosis
• DTP = diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis
• OPV (Sabin) = oral polio vaccine
• MMR = measles, mumps, rubella
*Note: After the age of four, a second dose of MMR is recommended (but not obligatory) and booster shots of DTP and Sabin are given. Ask your doctor about these.
Arabic translation of immunizations:
There are several vaccines which are not obligatory, but which many pediatricians recommend. Ask your pediatrician about the following vaccinations and the ages at which they are given:
• Hepatitis A vaccine: usually within the second year of life preferably given before the child goes to nursery.
• Meningitis vaccine: starting at the age of 2-3 years and to be repeated every 2 years when indicated.
• IPV (Salk) – inactivated poliovirus: to be given for immunocompromised children who cannot receive the live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV).
• Hib (haemophilus influenza type b): recommended at 2, 4, 6 and 18 months either in combination with DPT or seperately.
• Varicella (chickenpox): at 12-15 months and recently a second booster dose is recommended at 4-6 years.
• Rota virus vaccine: 2 doses to be given within the first 6 months of life usually 1st dose at age 6 weeks to 3 months and second dose 6-8 weeks later.
• Pneumococcal vaccine: at 2, 4, 6 months and a booster dose between the age of 13-18 months.
• Flu vaccine: recommended to be given every year to all children during the fall season and highly recommended for asthmatic and chronically-ill children.
• Td (adult tetanus and diphtheria): recommended at the age of 5 years and every 10 years thereafter throughout life.
What should I tell my child before a vaccination?
When your child is due for a scheduled vaccination, prepare him a few days in advance since kids don’t like surprises. Tell him something like, “We have to go to the doctor in order not to get sick. She/he will give you some medication and you will take a little shot, so that you grow up healthy.” If you can find a children’s book about going to the doctor, read it with your child before the visit. Children who are prepared may not even cry at the physician’s office. Never use ‘a shot at the doctor’s office’ as a threat to your child when he or she misbehaves as this may keep the child constantly stressed about going to the doctor, and may even lead to him mistrusting both adults involved in this scenario, parent and pediatrician. To reassure your child while the shot is given, you can talk to him gently.
Do vaccines cause side effects?
Side effects are mild and temporary: a slight fever, irritability, and pain, soreness or swelling at the injection site. Many children experience no side effects, and the side effects that do occur are far less serious than the complications of the actual illness. In rare cases, a child may be allergic to the vaccine itself. This may manifest itself as a skin rash, inconsolable crying, etc. If this is the case, the pediatrician will check which vaccine caused the allergy, and it should not be administered again.
Serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare, but if you feel that your child is having a severe reaction, such as a seizure or very high fever, see a doctor immediately, and get second and third opinion if you are not satisfied with the care provided.
Are there any reasons not to vaccinate my child?
There are certain valid reasons for not vaccinating a child:
• If a child is seriously ill or has any sort of fever, he should not be vaccinated until he gets well. However, if your child has a mild illness without fever, like a cold or cough, he can be vaccinated as usual.
• Your child had an allergic reaction to a previous vaccination. There are different brands of most vaccines, so if one brand has caused an allergy, the doctor needs to decide if it is possible to use another brand of the same vaccine in the future.
• Your child has seizures or a serious neurological disease.
• Your child has documented poor immunity.
If your child falls into one of the above categories, discuss his or her case with your doctor to decide whether or not to vaccinate.