By Ibironke Taiwo. Freelance Writer, with medical review and editorial support by The DLHA Team.
Baby receiving vaccination
The general consensus is; Yes. African babies with minor illnesses should still be immunized on schedule. This is because immunization helps to protect your baby from getting sick in the first place, and if they do get minor sickness, immunisation prevents this from worsening seriously.
There are exceptions. For example, when your baby is severely ill, immunisation would most likely be rescheduled for a later date that is determined by your doctor or nurse, after your baby is fully recovered.
Keep reading, as this article promises to shed more light on the benefits of immunisation for your baby, the things to consider before getting your baby immunized, and the consequences of skipping immunization.
Immunisation, an important component of primary health, is a health necessity known and recommended globally to reduce the risks of getting preventable diseases.
Immunisation builds protection by interacting with your body's natural defense. It also helps to prevent and control the outbreak of infectious diseases.
It is important to get your baby immunised to save their life from deadly diseases and protect them from the risk of being infected or infecting others.
Every baby or toddler at some point in their lives experiences one illness or the other. They are more susceptible to infectious agents because they do not have a fully developed immune system.
This poorly developed immune system explains why illness are more serious in babies than in adults or older children.
For this reason, it is very important to get your babies immunised against common life-threatening but preventable diseases.
Before we go deeply into immunisation, let us look at the various types of illness usually experienced by African babies. The majority are vaccine preventable diseases.
The fact that babies do not have a fully developed immune system automatically puts them at risk of being infected, This in turn puts them at risk of dying within the first 28 days of their life.
As of the year 2021, data reported by UNICEF indicated that 2.3 million children died in the first month of their life, which is equivalent to about 6,400 neonatal deaths every day.
Many of the illnesses suffered by babies can be prevented through immunisation as there are now vaccines for over 20 life-threatening diseases. These vaccines prevent and control the outbreak of infectious diseases among babies.
Not only does immunisation prevent disease, it also helps to strengthen your baby's defense (immune) system against diseases.
Immunisation prevents your baby from the dangers of full-blown infection preparing the body to prevent illness even before it occurs.
The vaccines used in immunising babies introduce an element called antigen into the body which behaves in a similar way as the infectious agent by imitating it thereby preparing the immune system to respond to any similar infection.
With this, your baby already has an attack plan for infectious agents.
A lot of African parents fail to immunize their babies who have minor illnesses like cough or cold forgetting that this illness may lead to complications or be an underlying symptom of a major disease.
Not getting your baby immunized puts them at risk of being infected by people around them.
When your baby is vaccinated, you are protecting them from being infected. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Refusal to get your baby vaccinated puts you at risk of spending a lot of money to treat a very preventable disease when illnesses or complications occur.
The occurrence of diseases such as measles which could be prevented by immunisation may otherwise lead to a lifelong disability like blindness, thereby reducing the quality of life of a baby.
Whooping cough, which is another very deadly condition for babies and common in teens, pre-teens and among adults too, can also be prevented through immunisation. Not immunising you baby against whooping cough is to run the risk of its serious complicarions like, breathing difficulties, pneumonia, brain damage due to poor oxygen supply to the brain and more.
Before a baby gets vaccinated, certain considerations need to be put in place to avoid complications and to ensure the safety and well-being of the baby.
Your baby's immunisation provider would ask you questions as the baby's parent or guardian while taking a omplete medical history of the baby. This includes family medical history, past medical history of the baby, including those that occurred before and during birth, allergies, and records of hospitalization.
Next the provider would perform a physical examination of the baby, including the vital signs, nutritional status, growth and development status. to identify anything that reason why the vaccine should not be given at the time.
In the evaluation of your baby's overall health, the immune function is checked to detect any underlying immunodeficiency and the responsiveness of the immune system.
It is very important that you as a parent or guardian consult with a healthcare professionals before getting your baby immunized. This is because the healthcare provider can help you make the best decision for your baby by providing you with up-to-date information about vaccines, explaining to you the risks and benefits associated with any vaccine to be given, and recommending appropriate vaccination schedules for your baby
You should also consider the safety of the vaccine for your baby during minor illnesses. To this end, ask your baby’s healthcare provider if the baby should be vaccinated at the specific time when they have a minor illness like a cold or fever?
Specialist doctors for babies (paediatricians) advise that babies with minor illnesses should still get their immunisation on schedule. But in case of severe illnesses, the vaccination could be rescheduled and administered when the baby is fully recovered to prevent the symptoms of the illness from becoming worse.
Babies who have allergies to any component of the vaccine should not be vaccinated.
Some medications can interact with vaccines such as corticosteroids and chemotherapy drugs (immunosuppressive medications). These medications suppress the immune system, making it respond less to vaccines. Interaction of some mediation may lead to bleeding, therefore you must tell your healthcare provider the medications your baby was previously on or is currently using.
Another thing to consider in immunization is access to vaccines and questions like whether it will be available when your baby should get it.
Health managers and administrators should ensure that vaccines are always available on demand as otherwise, vaccination of a few babies out of a large population is not effective in curbing the spread of infectious disease.
Many African parents do not believe in the vaccination of babies against preventable illnesses solely because they do not have adequate knowledge of the importance of immunization. Therefore, public health administrators and healthcare providers should collaborate in educating African parents about the benefits as well as consequences of not getting their baby vaccinated.
Any myths they might have about immunization should also be addressed
Easy access to vaccines should be provided by offering flexible scheduling, accessible clinic hours, and mobile outreach to those who can't make it to the clinic.
The cost of vaccines should be subsidized and, if possible, made free so that everyone can have equal access to them, especially in rural African communities.
Support and fund policies and programs that promote comprehensive immunization in both rural and urban centres.
You should seek medical advice;
Immunization helps to protect your baby from diseases, therefore it is okay to vaccinate your baby as at when due, even when they have minor illness. In cases of severe illness, and on the advice of your baby’s doctor or nurse, immunization may be rescheduled for a time when your baby has recovered from the severe illness. This way, your baby will remain fully immunized and protected.
Babies are more susceptible to different kinds of minor illnesses such as fever, cough, cold, etc. so they should be vaccinated to prevent complications of these illnesses.
Immunization not only protects your baby but also helps them to build a strong immune system thereby helping them to fight infectious agents even before it begins to manifest.
Failure to get your baby vaccinated puts them at risk of being infected and also costs you in terms of money and time, as you would spend more money and time for special care when your baby comes down with severe illness.
Before you get your baby immunized, ensure the healthcare provider evaluates your child's health status, and do not hesitate to ask questions about any concerns you may have about immunisation in order to put your mind at peace that you a doing the right thing for your baby’s overall health.
1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Information on Diseases & Conditions for Parents with Infants & Toddlers (Ages 0-3) [Internet. Last reviewed, January 11, 2023]. Accessed November 15, 2023.
2. UNICEF. Neonatal Mortality [Internet. Last updated January 2023]. Accessed November 15, 2023.
3.World Health Organization (WHO) Vaccines and Immunizations. [Internet. n.d.] Accessed November 15, 2023.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding how vaccines work. Last reviewed May 24, 2023. Accessed November 15, 2023.
5. UNICEF. 7 consequences and risks of not getting your child routinely vaccinated. June 3, 2021. Accessed, November 16, 2023.
6. Nationwide Children’s. Assessment of Newborn Babies. Last reviewed April 6, 2010. Accessed November 16, 2023.
Published: November 7, 2023
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