Vaccination plays a crucial role in the healthy development of infants and young children all over the world. Although your child’s body is able to produce cells and antibodies that are able to combat viruses and bacteria, there are certain types of pathogens that the body cannot protect itself against, without the aid of vaccines. Some of these include hepatitis, pertussis, tetanus, meningitis, as well as measles and chickenpox.
A vaccine is made up of a small amount of killed or weakened virus or bacteria. It prevents disease, disability, and even death by stimulating your child’s immune system when it is introduced into the body.
The Ministry of Health Malaysia has introduced an immunisation schedule since the 1950s, with mandatory vaccines to prevent certain major childhood diseases. These compulsory vaccinations have been provided for free by the government, while optional vaccinations are also readily available in private practices all over Malaysia.
|Tuberculosis (TB) – contagious and fatal, which could result in lung damage, TB meningitis and bone disease.||BCG vaccine||At birth 7 years if no BCG scar|
|Hepatitis B – a viral infection that can lead to jaundice or liver cancer.||A series of 3 injections of Hepatitis B vaccine||At birth; at 1 & 5 months|
|Diphtheria – causes the obstruction of the airway and can lead to heart and brain damage.||DTP vaccine||At 2, 3 & 5 months; 1st booster shot at 18 months; 2nd booster shot at 6-7 years|
|Pertussis (Whooping cough) – severe, prolonged coughing fits that can cause lung and brain infections.|
|Tetanus (Lockjaw) – severe muscle spasms that can lead to death.|
|Poliomyelitis (Polio) – permanent muscle weakness that can cause paralysis, especially of the legs.||Polio vaccine – given orally or taken together with DTP|
|Measles – highly contagious, characterised by fever, cough, runny nose and rashes.||MMR vaccine||At 12-15 months; at 7 years|
|Mumps – Highly infectious, causes swelling of the glands behind the jaws. Can cause painful testes and sterility.|
|Rubella (German measles) – may be passed by pregnant women to their babies causing birth defects.|
|Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib) – inflammation of membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis), pneumonia, bronchitis, bacteraemia, ear infection, and epiglotitis.||Hib vaccine||At 2, 3 & 5 months; given with DTP|
What are the optional vaccines?
The table of mandatory vaccines recommended by the Ministry of Health ensures that your child is protected from the deadly diseases mentioned above. However, there are also other diseases from which your child can get protection through various optional vaccines. These include:
|Optional vaccine||Protects against…||Caused by||Number of shots||When to administer|
|Varicella||Chickenpox||Varicella virus||2 doses, at least a month apart||After 1 year old|
|Pneumococcal vaccine||Invasive pneumococcal disease||Streptococcus pneumoniae||1-4 depending on the age||After 2 months and up to 9 years of age|
|Meningcoccal A, C, Y, W-135||Meningitis||Neisseria meningitidis||Every 3-5 years||Beyond 2 years of age Especially for Hajj & Umrah pilgrimage|
|Cholera||Cholera||Vibrio cholerae||2-3 oral doses||From 2 years old|
|Typhoid||Typhoid fever||Salmonella typhy||Every 3 years||Above 2 years|
|Hepatitis A||Hepatitis A||Hepatitis A virus||Two, given 6 months apart||Above 2 years|
|Influenza||Influenza||Influenza virus||Every year apart||Above 6 months|
|Rotavirus||Gastroenteritis due to rotavirus||Rotavirus||2-3 doses||From 6 weeks old|
|Japanese Encephalitis||Japanese Encephalitis||Flavivirus carried by culex mosquito||2-3 doses||After 18 months, 3 doses|
Many parents may wonder whether these optional vaccines are necessary, considering that the standard early childhood vaccinations have already been acquired. However, optional vaccines are equally important and have been reported as a safe and effective method against unnecessary suffering and the risk of complications from diseases that may seem harmless.
For example, pneumococcus could result in meningitis, which is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. In infants and young children below 2 years, meningitis could cause brain damage or even death in worse case scenarios.
Do talk to your child’s paediatrician and find out more about the necessary and optional vaccinations that are important. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, and you can never put a price on your child’s life! Take the right precautions today.