In 1980, World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that smallpox – one of the most feared disease on Planet Earth was totally eliminated. The last case was reported in 1977. For many years, smallpox was killing millions of people every year. As recent as 1967, it continued to infect 15 million people within a year. This killer disease was indeed a threat to human existence. Fortunately, we had a genius like Edward Jenner who successfully introduced vaccination to control various dangerous infections.
Smallpox eradication is a landmark victory for mankind. We have successfully thwarted the continuous march of a dangerous killer that could exterminate the entire human race. Such is the power of vaccination in the control of infection.
Vaccine is the technology that produces the greatest impact on mankind. Millions of lives have been saved and many complications of diseases averted. There is every good reason for people to get vaccinated for protection against the devastating diseases. All our defenseless babies deserve what they need most – vaccination. Vaccination is one of the best live-saving technologies known to mankind.
The benefits of vaccinations far outweigh their risks. Few cases of death or complications due to unforeseen circumstances that are often coincidental should not stop people from getting vaccinations. Seriously, in my professional opinion, vaccination is one of the greatest measures one could take for good health and longevity. We could be the victims of many fatal diseases while attempting to complete our journey of life to the very end.
From the moment a baby popped his head out into this hazardous world, he is being attacked by multitudes of microorganisms, trying to make him sick or even kill him. Fortunately, he comes in armed with some great antibodies from his mother. Upon delivery, more antibodies were fed to him in the form of colostrum — the first secretion of his mother’s mammary glands that contains a high quantity of antibodies. Thereafter, his mom’s antibodies started dwindling.
Smart parents would promptly take their babies to the clinic periodically for more life-saving shots. Sadly, many parents still have a lackadaisical attitude, and are ill-informed or ignorant about the power of vaccines in conferring their babies with immunity to fight against many dangerous diseases.
Perhaps I should highlight something about each of the vaccines that is recommended for our babies:
Tuberculosis: BCG is a vaccine for prevention of tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a major public health problem in Cambodia. WHO recommended that all newborns in Cambodia should receive BCG vaccination at birth.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis: Diphtheria is an infection with formation of a thick white coat at the back of the throat. The infection can lead to breathing difficulty, paralysis, heart failure and even death. Tetanus commonly known as lockjaw, is a bacterial infection that causes painful muscle spasms that can lead to cessation of breathing resulting in death. The widespread use tetanus vaccine has made lockjaw a rare disease. Pertussis or whooping cough is a disease that can lead a baby to convulsions, cessation of breathing, pneumonia, or brain damage.
DTaP is a 3-in-1 injection to be given for protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. Three doses are required to be given monthly or 2-monthly over a period of 3 to 6 months starting from the beginning of the 2nd month.
Polio: Deaths caused by wild poliovirus infection had decreased by over 99 percent since 1988. The number of cases reported had decreased to only 22 in 2017. As a result of the global effort to eradicate this disease, more than 16 million people have been saved from paralysis. Polio vaccine is given together with DTaP vaccines.
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib): Hib is a bacterial illness that can lead to a deadly brain infection in young children. Hib vaccine is best given on month 2, 4 and 6.
Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a virus that can lead to chronic liver infection or liver cancer. 3 to 4 shots of hepatitis B vaccine are usually given over 6 months from birth. The first dose should be given at birth. In my practice, I prefer to use Hexaxim that contains all the six vaccines for all the 6 diseases mentioned above in one single injection. This injection is given at month 2, 4 and 6 as in the Australian Immunisation Schedule.
Pneumococcal: Prevenar 13 is a vaccine that protects against 13 common strains of pneumococcal bacteria. These bacteria can cause dangerous infections including pneumonia and meningitis. It is given to babies at 2, 4, 6, and 12-15 months of age.
Rotavirus: Rotavirus can cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and fever leading to loss of body fluids and dehydration. It can be dangerous, especially in babies and young children. Two doses of the rotavirus vaccine (Rotarix) given at 2nd and 4th month is more than 90 percent effective at preventing severe rotavirus-associated gastroenteritis. If Rotateq is used instead of Rotarix, an additional dose is necessary.
The next three diseases namely measles, mumps and rubella are protected by a 3 in 1 injection of MMR vaccine. MMR vaccine are given in two doses: the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age.
Measles: Most people survive measles, though in some cases, complications such as bronchitis, deafness and fatal brain infection may occur. Two doses of MMR vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing measles while one dose is about 93 percent effective.
Mumps: Mumps is an extremely contagious viral infection of the salivary glands. Sometimes, the mumps virus can also cause inflammation of the testis, ovary, pancreas, or brain.
Rubella: Rubella is usually a mild disease in children. The main concern with rubella virus infection, however, is the effect it can have on a pregnant woman. Rubella infection in early pregnancy can lead to fetal death, premature delivery, and serious birth defects.
Chicken pox: The chickenpox vaccine can protect nearly anyone who receives the vaccine from catching chickenpox. It is given by injection when kids are above 9 months old.
Indeed, prevention is always better than cure. The fight against infective diseases that are potentially serious and sometimes fatal need not be one step too late. We should be one step ahead. Always bear in mind that unvaccinated babies have very high risk of suffering from the diseases and may die of them. As these diseases are preventable, taking simple preventive action can save lives. All parents should be smart, compassionate and caring towards their babies. Vaccination is something too important to ignore. Ignorance can lead to fatal consequences. If death befalls our loved ones, nothing can bring them back.
My next column will be on ‘The love triangle of sleep, sex and stress.’
Dr. Victor Ti, MD, MFAM (Malaysia), FRACGP (Australia), Dip P Dermatology (UK), Dip STDs/AIDS (Thailand), Dip. AARAM (USA), LCP of Aesthetic Med.(Malaysia) is an experienced expat specialist generalist (Family Physician) of BH Clinic, Phnom Penh. As a specialist generalist, he is skillful at diagnosing all general diseases and excluding the sinister ones. Apart from the general diseases, Dr. Victor is also known for his skill in skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, minor surgery and aesthetic medicine. He can be contacted via email [email protected]
Tel: 023900446 or Whatsapp: +60164122977