Vaccinations are, without a doubt, one of mankind’s greatest inventions. They prevent the spread of so many diseases that otherwise would have been devastating. Effective immunization of their children is one of a parent’s biggest and most immediate duties post-birth. Read up about the 10 most important vaccinations for children in our blog, and ensure your baby receives timely vaccinations.
Why Are Vaccines Important
Putting it simply, vaccinations help your body protect itself from viruses and diseases. A vaccine contains either a part of or a dead disease-causing germ. When the vaccine enters your body, it tricks your body into thinking that the germ is attacking. This triggers your immune system to produce antibodies specifically to fight off that virus. The vaccine itself has no disease-causing capability but instead helps to protect us from potentially life-threatening diseases.
Vaccines are given in a way that they precede the age at which you might contract the disease. There are so many diseases to fight off that doctors even administer some vaccines to newborn babies immediately after birth.
The 10 Most Important Vaccinations For Children In India
There are a set of vaccines that are extremely essential for all children, all of which are covered in India’s immunization schedules. While the National Immunization Schedule (NIS) has all essential vaccines, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) schedule lists out a few more important ones that aren’t considered essential.
The full form of BCG is Bacillus Calmette–Guérin, but don’t worry, as everyone in India knows it as the BCG vaccine. Having existed for over 80 years, the BCG vaccine is one of the most effective in protecting against tuberculosis. For a country like India, where tuberculosis is rampant and spreads easily, vaccinations against tuberculosis are a must.
India introduced BCG mass immunization in 1948, and along with Pakistan, became the first country outside of Europe to make this move. Not only is it a part of India’s NIS schedule, but it also features on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. Without a doubt, this is one of the most important vaccinations for children in India.
Doctors will administer the BCG vaccine to your baby within a few days after birth. It’s also usual for them to administer it anytime between birth and 6 months. However, they can be vaccinated at any time before they turn 5 years old. The vaccine will be administered via a shot in the arm.
Side Effects: Your baby will experience mild side effects after the BCG vaccine. A small red blister may appear at the site between 1 to 6 weeks. Your baby may also be cranky.
Hepatitis B Vaccine
Hepatitis B is a liver infection, the cause of which is the highly contagious hepatitis B virus. It can often become a chronic condition, especially when it infects the liver of a baby. It could lead them to have persistent, slow lover damage throughout their lives. More so, this worsens with the fact that there is no cure for this virus! It is for all these reasons that Hepatitis B is one of the first vaccines your baby will receive. India introduced this vaccine in the year 2002 and it falls under the NIS schedule.
Doctors recommend administering the Hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, and definitely within 24 hours. This will be the first of a series of 3 doses, as hepatitis B works best this way.
Side Effects: Common side effects of the hepatitis B vaccine in children include a low fever, runny nose, diarrhea, and weakness.
Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV)
For many years, the world considered India to be one of the most difficult regions to eliminate polio. The poliovirus causes a disease that is crippling, and potentially life-threatening. But with an aggressive nationwide vaccination campaign, India garnered the declaration of being Polio-free in 2014!
However, a lapse in vaccinations, and we could go back to suffering from polio again. The poliovirus is dangerous, which makes the vaccine one of the most important vaccinations for children. Children need to get the polio vaccine at birth, or as early as possible within 25 days after birth. The dose at birth will be OPV 0. Visit a pediatrician for OPV 1, 2 & 3, which they can administer at 6 weeks, 10 weeks & 14 weeks.
Side Effects: Your baby may have a low fever, and have redness, pain, and swelling at the site of the shot. They may also feel joint aches, drowsiness, and vomiting.
As the name suggests, the pentavalent vaccine is a combination of 5 antigens – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Together, they make a potent vaccine that protects you from life-threatening bacterial diseases.
A virus that spreads through coughs and sneezes, diphtheria affects a child’s nose and throat. It can lead to severe heart, nerve, and kidney damage in small children. The tetanus bacteria are mostly found in soil, and lead to lockjaw, making it impossible for your little one to move their mouth or swallow. Pertussis, more popular as whooping cough, is highly contagious. What’s worse is it primarily affects babies under six months of age. It can lead to severe coughing, and spells of choking that can be deadly.
Not only does the pentavalent vaccine help you to protect yourself from these deadly diseases, but it also increases the effectiveness of the hepatitis B and Hib vaccines! It is given in three doses – the first at 6 weeks, the second at 10 weeks, and the third at 14 weeks.
Side Effects: Side effects of the pentavalent vaccine include redness and soreness at the site, mild fever, irritability and crankiness, and diarrhea or loss of appetite.
Rotavirus Vaccine (RVV)
As much as you would want to cocoon your little one to keep them safe, you know that won’t be possible. They have to go mingle with other kids and explore the world they’re in on their own terms. This is often when they will come into contact with viruses, one of which is rotavirus. This highly contagious virus spreads easily in areas where small children play, like a park or a daycare center. When it infects a baby, it can lead to a fever, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. Left untreated, this can cause dehydration and even death.
Luckily, this is also exactly where their vaccinations help them out. Rotavirus vaccine, like the pentavalent vaccine, works in doses – at 6, 10, and 14 weeks.
Side Effects: The rotavirus vaccine has mild side effects which include diarrhea, loss of appetite, low fever, and irritability. These should subside in a few days.
Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV, is a vaccine that gives protection from a series of dangerous illnesses, most notably pneumonia. It fights the streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, responsible for vast damage, ranging from deadly ear infections and sinusitis to sepsis, meningitis, and pneumonia. The worst part? This bacteria can spread through a cough or a sneeze from someone who may not even know they carry it in their body.
In 2016 and 2017, India ran a pilot rollout of the PCV vaccine in 5 states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. These states contribute in high numbers to the Indian population. As of 2021, this is set to expand beyond these 5 states, and the vaccine will be indigenous, thanks to the Serum Institute of India. This is projected to save over 50,000 children’s lives each year!
The PCV vaccine is given in three doses – one at 6 weeks, one at 14 weeks, and the final at 9 months.
Side Effects: Some of the common side effects of the PCV vaccine are chills, fever, decreased appetite, headaches, tiredness or drowsiness, and irritability.
Measles-Rubella Vaccine (MR)
Perhaps the most widely known of all the contagious viruses are measles, while rubella (German measles) may not be that well known but is a hassle nonetheless. Rubella is the milder of the two, leading to a fever, tender lymph nodes, and rashes. Measles, on the other hand, leads to a severe full-body rash, fever, respiratory infections, and sometimes, death.
The MR vaccine, which India administers in two doses, helps keep all of these infections at bay. It features in the NIS immunization schedule. The first MR shot is at around 9 to 12 months, while the second is before the child turns 2. However, if you’ve missed your baby’s second dose, simply head to a pediatrician as your baby can receive the vaccine before the age of 5.
Side Effects: Dizziness, runny nose, sore throat, cough, headaches, and fever are some of the mild side effects of the MR vaccine.
Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV)
In a further attempt to curb the poliovirus, India introduced the IPV in 2015. Unlike the oral vaccine, doctors inject IPV into the body. Using the IPV alongside the oral vaccine makes for double protection from the destruction of the poliovirus. Initially introduced in just 5 states, the IPV administration now stretches across the country.
Side Effects: Side effects are similar to the side effects of OPV, alongside some redness and soreness at the injection site.
Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine (JE)
A mosquito-borne disease, Japanese encephalitis is endemic to certain parts of India. This means that the people in those areas are at higher risk of contracting the disease than people from other regions. The signs and symptoms of JE can vary, mostly being mild like a fever and headache. However, some severe cases lead to a rapid onset of headaches, disorientation, high fever, seizures, and ultimately, death.
Those who survive severe infections will suffer permanent damage that can be behavioral, neurological, or intellectual. Sadly, there is no cure for the disease, and the treatment is only focused on supporting the patient to help them overcome the infection and to ease the discomfort of the symptoms. In India, highly endemic states are Bihar, Karnataka, Goa, Manipur, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Uttar Pradesh. The only way to keep your kids safe from this deadly disease is to give them the vaccine, which is why it is one of the most important vaccinations for children in India.
The JE vaccine is given after 9 to 12 months of birth, followed by a booster shot at1 to 24 months.
Side Effects: Side effects are mild, mostly being a slight fever and pain or tenderness at the site.
Vitamin A Vaccine
You’re probably wondering why exactly a vitamin has featured on a list of vaccines, that too, among the most important vaccinations for children in India. This is because a lack of Vitamin A can lead to blindness in children, specifically in kids below 5 years of age. To ensure that children don’t run the risk of living a life without sight, the vaccine is administered across 9 doses.
Your doctor will administer the first dose along with the MR vaccine at 9 months. The second will be at 16-18 months. After this, ensure you keep track of your child’s immunization schedule! This is because you will have to visit your pediatrician every 6 months for a dose. This continues up until your child turns 5, which is when they’re out of harm’s way.
Keeping a track of your baby’s shots can be stressful, but ensure you do not miss any one of these. After all, these 10 most important vaccinations for children in India will help them grow on par with kids around them, and leave them healthy and immunized. Worried about missing an appointment? Download the ImmunifyMe app and witness firsthand the ease with which you can maintain your kid’s immunization record.
FAQs On Most Important Vaccinations For Children
What Is The Most Important Vaccine In History?
There isn’t one particular vaccine that stands out as the most important in history. Instead, vaccines that have been the most important are those that protected against severe diseases of the time. Some examples are the smallpox vaccine, the polio vaccine, and in more recent times, the coronavirus vaccines.
What Is The Most Needed Vaccine?
In essence, all vaccines are most needed by everyone – no one wants themselves or people they love to be afflicted with preventable diseases! However, these 10 vaccines listed out in the blog are definitely some of the most essential vaccines for children to get.
Why Is It Important To Vaccinate Children?
Firstly, vaccinating children is a way of protecting them from some very harmful diseases that can leave them with permanent damage. In some cases, they can die. Secondly, these diseases can spread, causing harm to entire communities. The more vaccinated people there are, the less the chances of the disease spreading.