Vaccination is so much a part of child-rearing now that parents almost automatically adjust themselves to the immunisation schedule of their babies.

Immunisation is a lifesaver, and missing the doses will not only cost your child dear, but there is a fair chance that it will also endanger the community at large. “Immunisation is the cost-effective way of preventing vaccine-preventable diseases,” says G. K. Durairaj, joint director, Immunisation, Directorate of Public Health. In many of the diseases where vaccines are available, for instance, Polio or Japanese Encephalitis, once the disease sets in, it leads to death or disability. Treatment at that stage cannot ameliorate the large-scale impact the virus or bacteria has had on the body by then, he explains.

“If you have about 85 per cent coverage of immunisation in a particular region or country, then the transmission of those viruses or bacteria is frozen off,” explains A. Padmanabhan, former Director of Public Health. As in the case of small pox, that was eradicated thanks to focussed and complete vaccine coverage of the population.

In the State, Sarada Suresh, Director, Institute of Child Health, says that good immunisation coverage has led demonstrably to a drop in incidence of a number of diseases and lessened the severity of others.

The Universal Immunisation Programme, initiated in 1985, provided Polio, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, BCG, and Measles vaccines. Much later, the Hepatitis B and Japanese Encephalitis vaccines were also thrown into the package and offered at all government hospitals. In private practice, paediatricians also offer vaccinations against chicken pox, typhoid, diahorrea, childhood meningitis and pneumonia, Dr. Suresh explains.

For parents buying vaccine vials in the market, Dr. Durairaj advises that they only buy vials that have been preserved in the cold chain and with intact vial monitors. If the child has minor problems such as cold or fever, and no major events, the vaccine can still be given in consultation with the paediatrician.

After vaccination minor events such as fever, pain or swelling at the site of injection can be expected, but major problems or death are rare, he adds.