Article written by:
Dr Kevin Borg MD MRCPCH MSc Child Health (Warwick)
Vaccines prevent around 3 million deaths worldwide every year. Vaccinating your child is one of the most important things you can do not only to protect your child but also other children and vulnerable individuals against preventable diseases. Successful vaccination programmes have eradicated certain diseases like smallpox however, once people stop having their vaccines, diseases might reappear and spread – this is a major public health threat as is the case with measles across Europe.
Vaccine safety and how they work
Vaccines are quick, safe and extremely effective. Vaccines have to pass rigorous testing before being approved for use and will not harm your child. Vaccines make us produce antibodies to protect from disease, without actually causing the disease. It is much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the disease itself, especially since some of the diseases like meningococcal meningitis may have life threatening repercussions. The antibodies produced protect your child for many years. Vaccines may contain other ingredients that make the vaccine safe and more effective and there is no evidence that any of these ingredients cause harm when used in such small amounts.
Vaccine side effects and myths around vaccination
Common side effects include a local reaction at the injection site which might get swollen and sore. Children may also develop some fever, be more irritable or sleep more than usual in the first 24-48 hours after vaccine administration. Side effects are usually easily treated with some paracetamol as directed by your health professional. It is rare for someone to have a serious allergic reaction and the person who vaccinates your child should be trained to deal with such reactions.
Beware of fake news especially on social media. Vaccines do not cause autism or other medical conditions. Homeopathy cannot replace vaccination and delaying vaccination will prolong your child from being protected against certain diseases. If your baby was born premature, vaccinations should not be delayed unless instructed by your caring health professional.
Vaccination tips for parents
- Do not forget the ‘Baby Book’. The administered vaccines need to be documented there and the healthcare professional should also report them directly to the online centralised system
- Avoid tight clothing (Below 12 months vaccines given in thigh)
- Stay calm during procedure; with older children it may be useful to explain before what the procedure will entail.
- Buy paracetamol syrup/suppositories in case of fever (routinely only for Meningococcal B vaccine)
- Re-appoint if you miss out on any vaccine appointments
The national vaccination schedule in Malta
The vaccination schedule in Malta has been recently updated to include the important meningococcal and pneumococcal vaccines. One is advised to discuss with their paediatrician or trusted healthcare professional regarding other vaccines that are not provided by the national schedule including the Rotavirus vaccine (against rotavirus gastroenteritis) and the chicken pox (varicella) vaccine.
CLICK HERE to see the updated vaccination schedule in Malta.