Immunization Of Babies And Children

Immunization, or vaccination, is the process of protecting small children against diseases by giving them injections, skin scratches or drops by mouth.

For some conditions one disease is given because it gives protection against another. Smallpox vaccine is in fact an inoculation with the disease cowpox.

In certain instances, a virus that causes a disease is treated in the laboratory so that it becomes relatively harmless. This virus is then used in the vaccine. Poliomyelitis vaccine is prepared in this way and is administered by oral drops.

Whooping cough vaccine has recently been the subject of much debate. There have been a few very rare cases of brain damage resulting from abnormal reactions to the vaccine, but at the same time whooping cough is a dreadful disease, killing some infants and leaving others with permanent damage to their lungs. It may be that whooping cough, like scarlet fever, is gradually dying out. But on the other hand, if we do not protect our children with the vaccine then we may run the risk of getting another epidemic of whooping cough. Children who should not receive whooping cough vaccine are those who are ill at the time, those who have had previous abnormal reactions to vaccinations, and those who themselves or whose families have any history of epileptic fits.

Diphtheria and tetanus vaccines have few significant side effects, and provide good protection. BCG vaccination (against tuberculosis) and measles vaccine also seem to be worthwhile. So is German measles vaccine for girls who did not get it in childhood but who hope later to have children. German measles during pregnancy is dangerous to the unborn child.