How did it start? – Virus and Vaccine
Once upon a time, smallpox killed an estimated 35% of those infected and left many others scarred or blind. But in 1980, mankind successfully eradicated the virus from the globe, thanks to large-scale vaccination efforts. And now we are this close to completely eradicating polio, too. In fact, vaccination has helped reduce the number of cases of several life-threatening diseases like diphtheria, rubella and haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) Tell us that’s not kind of amazing.
Vaccines activate antibodies that fight off the disease at hand, without actually giving you the disease.. They trick us into fighting a disease we don’t have, so that our body is prepared to fight it off if we are exposed it in the future.
Can vaccines save lives?
Vaccinations are one of the most effective ways to protect children from serious illnesses, infectious diseases and complications; including the amputation of an arm or leg, paralysis of limbs, hearing loss, convulsions, brain damage and death. If children are not vaccinated, they could easily contract any diseases that might lead to hospitalization and even death.
Unvaccinated children can also spread diseases to other children who are too young to be vaccinated or to people with weak immune systems such as those suffering from cancer, which again can have fatal consequences to these individuals.
If Ants do it, so should humans! Ants use “social immunization” — if one ant in the colonies is infected with a fungus, the other ants lick the infected insect to spread the infection throughout the colony. This makes the whole colony immune to the fungus. Herd immunity isn’t just for humans.
Child and Adult Vaccination in Egypt
In Egypt, there are two categories of vaccines available to be given to children; Compulsory & non-compulsory vaccines.
The Egyptian Ministry of health has an established vaccination program that lists 10 vaccinations as mandatory and free of charge for children aged 0-18 months.
These vaccinations include; Polio, TB, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), hepatitis B, Hemophilus influenza type b (Hib), Measles, German measles (Rubella) & Mumps.
So, does this mean that vaccines other than the aforementioned are not necessary?
There are other additional vaccines that are not covered under the Egyptian Ministry of health immunization program but are among many countries’ routine childhood immunization schedules. These “non-compulsory” vaccines are warranted to be given on account of high disease burden and the fact that they effectively reduce morbidity and mortality due to the disease. However, Governments around the world endorse them.
Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV)
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can spread from person to person through close contact. It can cause ear infections, and it can also lead to more serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia), blood (bacteremia), covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
PCV vaccine is usually given to children in 4 doses; 3 primary doses in the first year of life plus a booster dose in the second year.
Rota virus vaccine
Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhea, mostly in babies and young children. The diarrhea can be severe, and lead to dehydration. Vomiting and fever are also common in babies with rotavirus. Before rotavirus vaccine, rotavirus disease was a common and serious health problem for children.
The number of doses in a series depends on the used brand. There are two brands available in Egypt (that are not interchangeable), one is given in 3 doses while the other is given in 2 doses.
It protects against chickenpox disease which is a very contagious viral disease. Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be serious in infants under 12 months of age, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. A vaccine series, consists of 2 doses, the second dose should be given at least 3 months after the first dose for those younger than 13 years, and at least 28 days after the first dose for those 13 years of age or older.
Hepatitis A Vaccine:
Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is spread from person to person through contact with the feces (stool) of people who are infected, which can easily happen if someone does not wash his or her hands properly. Hepatitis A is also transmitted from food or water contaminated with HAV. A vaccine series consists of 2 doses at least 6 months apart. Starting the series over is not required if the recommended interval between the 2 doses is exceeded due to shortages in supply.
Typhoid fever is a serious disease caused by bacteria called Salmonella Typhi that is transmitted through contaminated food or water. If it is not treated, it can kill up to 30% of people who get it. Some people who get typhoid become “carriers,” who can spread the disease to others. The typhoid vaccine marketed in Egypt is the inactivated shot that’s recommended starting 2 years of age. A booster dose is needed every 2 years for people who remain at risk. The oral vaccine is unavailable in Egypt.
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by a type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis that leads to meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and infections of the blood. Meningococcal disease can spread from person to person through close contact (coughing or kissing). If not treated early, meningitis could be fatal or cause permanent disabilities. The vaccine available in Egypt is recommended starting 2 years of age. A booster dose is needed every 2-3 years.
Human Papilloma virus (HPV):
HPV vaccine prevents infection with human papillomavirus types that are associated with many cancers, including cervical cancer in females, vaginal and vulvar cancers in females, anal cancer in females and males, throat cancer in females and males, and penile cancer in males. In addition, HPV vaccine prevents infection with HPV types that cause genital warts in both females and males. In Egypt, there are 2 types of HPV vaccine available; HPV 2 & HPV 4. Females can take any, while males can take HPV4 only. Most adolescents 9 through 14 years of age should get HPV vaccine as a two-dose series with the doses separated by 6-12 months. People who start HPV vaccination at 15 years of age and older should get the vaccine as a three-dose series with the second dose given 1-2 months after the first dose and the third dose given 6 months after the first dose.
Influenza “flu” is a contagious disease that spreads usually between October and May. Flu is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. Although influenza is commonly considered to be a mild illness, this is not always the case. Influenza can have serious complications, including severe pneumonia. A considerable number of deaths related to heart and lung complications typically follow influenza epidemics. Particularly among the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women, the risk for influenza-associated complications is higher and flu vaccination is strongly recommended. Flu vaccine can keep you from getting flu, make flu less severe if you do get it, and keep you from spreading flu to your family and other people. The vaccine is generally recommended annually for everyone above 6 months of age.
Vaccinations are one of the most successful stories of modern medicine and important health interventions in the history of humanity.
Discuss with your healthcare provider which vaccine(s) you or your child need. He/she can help you design a catch-up plan if your child has a delayed start to immunization.
Dr. Yasmin Nagaty, Pharm.D, BCPS | Clinical Pharmacist at Tabibi 24/7