The Importance of Childhood Immunisation

South Africa follows International Guidelines in providing vaccines to children. This programme is known as EPI or the Expanded Programme of Immunisation. All parents have the responsibility to ensure their child is vaccinated on time. This will not only help protect the child against certain illnesses, but also contributes to the overall health of children in the general population.

The first vaccine is given just after birth. This is the BCG vaccine which helps protect against the major complications of tuberculosis (TB). This is the only vaccine given into the right shoulder area of the newborn. After about 6 weeks, the area where the vaccine was given forms a small lump and then a blister. This is normal. Within a few days of the blister forming, a white discharge will emerge. Healing happens with the formation of a scar over the area.

The next vaccines are given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks. These cover some of the serious infections that can affect the baby. If you miss a vaccine appointment, make sure you get to the facility as soon as you can to schedule a catch-up vaccine.

The next vaccines are given at 6 and 9 months and cover measles. After receiving these, vaccines become less frequent. There is a good vaccine available for meningitis, called Menactra, and should also be given if possible. If you are able to do this, please request this from the clinic.

The 15-month vaccine is called MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella). Every so often anti-vaxxers claim this is dangerous, but there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support this. This vaccine is very important and must not be missed out on.

After the 18-month vaccine there is long break till the age of 6 years. During this time, it is recommended to give the child the flu vaccine every year.

All vaccines work by stimulating and teaching the immune system how to fight certain infections. In this process, the baby may get irritable or have a fever. This is quite common and should be managed with regular doses of medication to control the pain and fever.

Childhood vaccines are a critical part of a child’s health. Parents have to take this responsibility very seriously. At Bonitas we recognise this and cover immunisation, on most plans, according to Expanded Programme on Immunisation in South Africa up to the age of 12.

Did you know?

BabyLine is a 24-hour children’s health advice line for children under three years. Parents or caregivers can simply call 0860 999 121 and they will be put through to a paediatric trained registered nurse who will be able to provide them with professional advice on their concerns.