Childhood Vaccination Explained

The pandemic has put into sharp focus the value that childhood vaccination can have in protecting us against diseases. We interviewed Dr Shahid Ali from Mediclinic Dubai Mall for his views on the implications and recommendations for vaccination in childhood. 

Dr Shahid Ali of Mediclinic Dubai Mall on 'Childhood Immunisation'

Dr Shahid Ali of Mediclinic Dubai Mall on ‘Childhood Immunisation’

What does childhood vaccination mean?

Vaccination means giving a product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, thereby protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

What diseases do the most common vaccines protect against?

Under the basic vaccination schedule in the UAE, the following diseases are covered by giving vaccination to infants and children: Tuberculosis, Rotavirus, Pneumococcal Infection, Hepatitis B, Polio, Tetanus, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Diphtheria, Haemophilus Influenzae Type B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella (Chicken Pox).  In addition, there are other vaccines available for diseases such as Meningococcal Meningitis, Hepatitis A, Typhoid Fever, Influenza and Human Papilloma Virus (to prevent cervical cancer in women.)

How do vaccinations work?

A vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly as it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease without having to get the disease first. This is what makes vaccines such a powerful medicine.

baby's nursery

Why is childhood vaccination important?

We all believe in the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’. Babies are born with immune systems that can fight most germs, but there are some deadly diseases they can’t handle. That’s why they need vaccines to strengthen their immune system. Before the development of vaccines, infections used to kill millions of children and adults worldwide. Now with very comprehensive vaccination programs available in most countries, we hardly see those killer diseases.  

At what ages should children be immunized?

The immunization schedule begins at birth in most countries and then continues until babies are a year old. Following that, there are booster vaccinations in later childhood. The timing of these booster vaccinations can vary from country to country and hence it’s important to at least follow the full schedule of the country you live in.

Can vaccines be dangerous?

Any vaccine can cause side effects. Usually, these side effects are minor – a low-grade fever, fussiness and soreness at the injection site. Some vaccines cause a temporary headache, fatigue or loss of appetite. In rare circumstances, a child might experience a severe allergic reaction. Although these rare side effects are a concern, the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm is extremely small. The benefits of getting a vaccine are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children. 

What considerations should parents weigh up when making the decision to vaccinate their child?

Research shows that parents want clear, consistent information from multiple sources they consider credible. Many of today’s parents do not know very much about vaccine-preventable diseases, and therefore do not understand the disease-protection benefits of vaccines. They often cite the Internet as the source of vaccine information.  

However, some of the information available online is not accurate and is conflicting. It can be difficult for a parent to know which sites to believe. Therefore, parents can turn to their most trusted information source of health information – their child’s doctor or nurse. Healthcare professionals are ready to provide parents with up-to-date and transparent information about a vaccine, its benefits and risks.  

Childhood vaccination providers may be asked about many topics, including vaccine-preventable diseases, specific vaccines, the immunization schedule and vaccine safety issues. Establishing an open dialogue promotes a safe, trust-building environment in which individuals can freely evaluate information, discuss vaccine concerns and make informed decisions regarding immunizations. 

Not all parents want the same level of medical or scientific information about vaccines. Healthcare professionals in the UAE are encouraged to assess the level of detail that each parent wants and provide clear and transparent information. Research shows that a provider’s recommendation for vaccination is usually a powerful motivator for immunizing their child.

How do you make the vaccination process easier and less stressful for both parent and child?

Parents and children should consider for the child’s age and stage of development when preparing for vaccination. Parents/guardians and children should be encouraged to take an active role before, during and after the administration of vaccines. 

Good healthcare providers will display confidence and establish an environment that promotes a sense of security and trust. Everyone involved should work together to provide immunizations in the safest and least stressful way possible. 

Simple strategies to make vaccines easier:

  • Displaying a positive attitude through facial expressions, body language and comments
  • Using a soft and calm tone of voice
  • Making eye contact, even with small children
  • Explaining why vaccines are needed (e.g., “this medicine will protect you from getting sick” or “this shot is a shield to protect your body against infection”)
  • Being honest and explaining what to expect (e.g., do not say that “the injection won’t hurt” – rather, you can tell your child they will feel a little pinch for a second and after it’s over, you’re going for an ice cream for being so brave!)

PLEASE NOTE: Since the lifting of restrictions, parents are now allowed to bring children into clinics. Contact Mediclinic Dubai Mall for further information.

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