As responsible parents, you want the best for your little one. You want to protect him/her from any illness and are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure this. One of the most vital steps to keep your child disease-free and healthy is regular vaccination. And yet, vaccination is marred with many unfortunate myths and untruths. While some people may tell you vaccines are “evil” and “unnatural”, others believe they lead to autism! But the only truth about vaccinations is that they are CRUCIAL to keep your child safe from potentially life-threatening germs.
What is a Vaccine?
One of the reasons vaccines have gotten a mixed reputation is that they are basically “shots of germs”. A vaccine is a medicinal substance prepared by the causative agent of a disease. However, the agent is weakened and does not cause the actual infection. Its only purpose is to trick the immune system and train it to fight against the germ if it were ever to attack the body. Thus, the body develops “immunity” against that particular infection.
Why Vaccinating Your Child is Important
When you vaccinate your child, you give him/her immunity against a serious disease. In the future, if the disease-causing germ were to attack, your child’s body will be ready to fight it off. It is because of vaccines that many severe diseases like smallpox and polio have almost been eradicated from the world.
You might argue that the child’s body could develop immunity on its own. Aren’t natural things safer? However, this logic is flawed because the body cannot develop immunity against something to which it hasn’t received exposure.
There are three more important reasons to vaccinate your child:
- Vaccination protects the spread of diseases to other people who cannot get vaccinated. Some people have to forego vaccination because they are too young, suffer from leukaemia, or have allergies.
- Vaccination protects your future generations. Timely and consistent vaccination can wipe away dangerous diseases completely.
- Vaccination keeps your child safe from germs that exist in other countries. You might think that conditions like diphtheria don’t exist in your country, but have you considered the number of people who travel overseas daily?
Latest Government Vaccination Schedule in India
So, what vaccines do children need? Depending on their age, children need different vaccines for total protection. To help parents, the government of India brings out a “National Immunization Schedule” that prescribes the vaccine alongside the age and the dosage. This schedule is designed and kept up to date by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP), an association of Indian paediatricians established in 1963. Here is the chart for your easy reference:
National Immunization Schedule India 2019
|Interval Between Doses|
|Vaccine||Protects Against||Minimum Age for 1st Dose||Dose 1 and 2||Dose 2 and 3||Dose 3 and 4||Dose 4 and 5|
|1||BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin)||Tuberculosis and Bladder Cancer||Birth|
|2||Hepatitis B||Hepatitis B||Birth||4 weeks||8 weeks|
|3||Poliovirus*||Polio||Birth||4 weeks||4 weeks|
|4||DTP||Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis||6 weeks||4 weeks||4 weeks||6 months (1st Booster)||3 years (2nd Booster)|
|5||Hib||Haemophilus influenzae Type B||6 weeks||4 weeks||4 weeks||6 months (1st Booster)|
|6||PCV (Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine)||Pneumonia||6 weeks||4 weeks||4 weeks||6 months (1st Booster)|
|7||RV (Rotavirus)||Severe Diarrhea||6 weeks||4 weeks||4 weeks|
|8||Typhoid||Typhoid||9 months||15 months (Booster 1)|
|9||MMR||Measles, Mumps and Rubella||9 months||6 months|
|10||Varicella||Chickenpox||1 year||3 months|
|11||Hepatitis A||Liver disease||1 year||6 months|
|12||Tdap||Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (acellular)||7 years|
|13||HPV (Human Papillomavirus)||Cervical Cancer and Genital Warts||9 years||For Child aged 9-14 years: 6 months. For Child aged 15 years and above: 1 month||Child aged 15 or more: 5 months|
Source: Adapted from https://www.indianpediatrics.net/oct2014/785.pdf
*Polio Vaccine—Should I Give My Child Drops or Injection?
You must have heard about the Indian government’s Pulse Polio Programme under which every child under the age of five years is given anti-polio drops (OPV or oral polio vaccine) on national immunization days. These days are declared in advance. For 2018, the days were 28th January and 11th March.
The IPV, or inactivated polio vaccine, is another way of protecting your child from polio. It is an injection administered in fractional doses (one-fifth of a full dose) at intervals.
Both the IPV and OPV are effective in protecting your child from polio. While a combination of the two is considered ideal, your baby will be safe even if he or she only takes the OPV drops. Consult your paediatrician for further details on this.
Are All the Vaccines in the Government Vaccination Schedule in India Mandatory?
From the above chart, the following vaccines have not been made mandatory by the Indian government:
You’ll find that these vaccines also tend to be more expensive than the compulsory vaccines. However, it is advisable to administer all the vaccines in the government vaccination schedule in India to protect children from serious illnesses. For instance, with rising air pollution in India, it has become critical to prevent the transmission of diseases like pneumonia that can be avoided by the PCV vaccine. It is also an excellent idea to invest in an air purifier to ensure your child breathes in unpolluted air at home.
Do Other Countries Have a Different Vaccination Schedule?
If you study the immunization schedules of other countries, you might notice some differences. These differences may be in the dosage, the recommended age, etc. For instance, in the U.S., everyone over six months old is advised to take the flu vaccine. However, in the U.K., the flu vaccine is recommended only for children, senior citizens, and people with certain medical conditions. Similarly, while India recommends vaccinating against TB (part of the BCG vaccine), it is not common in the U.S. These differences arise from the disease profile of different countries, the medical and economic status, and the prevalence of disease-causing germs. If you are travelling internationally with your baby, it is recommended to check the vaccination requirements of your destination country in advance.
Price of Prescribed Vaccinations in India
Given below is the indicative cost of the major vaccines included in the National Immunization Schedule. While some of these vaccines (BCG, Hepatitis B and Polio) will be given to your baby at birth, the rest are available with approved paediatricians. You should contact your paediatrician to understand if he/she can vaccinate the child or recommend an authorised vaccination centre. Vaccinations are not usually covered by insurance since they are preventative. However, you can discuss this with your insurance provider.
*The costs below reflect the standard going rates of the vaccines as offered by medical providers. The actual cost you incur during vaccination will differ based on the price charged by your medical practitioner and your geographical location within India.
|Vaccine||Cost (Per Dose)|
Precautions While Taking Your Child For Vaccination
Important as vaccinations are, your little one is too young to understand! It is common for babies to cry at the vaccination centre. Adhere to these precautions and rest assured that everything is fine:
- Take a print out of the National Immunization Schedule and paste it where you can easily spot it. Add reminders to your phone if required, so you never miss a timeline.
- Based on the baby vaccination chart, take appointments well in advance. If you cannot make it on the decided day, check with your doctor about the next suitable date.
- It is usually all right to vaccinate babies if they are slightly unwell or have a minor temperature. Your paediatrician will advise you on this.
- Most vaccinations do not have any major side effects. Your child will experience slight pain, redness in the spot, and perhaps a minor temperature. These side effects dissipate in a few hours. You can try to nurse your child, offer a favourite toy, etc., to distract him/her from the pain. If the side effects don’t disappear or your child develops a high fever/pain, contact your paediatrician at once.
Vaccinating your child in time is the best insurance you can provide as a parent. Not only will it keep him/her healthy and protected from dangerous illnesses, but it will also protect your future generations. The vaccination chart India changes with time, so keep checking back annually to see if there are any updates.