Every mother who has had cause to bring her child down to the hospital to see a doctor for one reason or the other has always had to answer the question ‘has your child received all vaccines?’. Experience down the years have shown that many mothers may not have enough knowledge about the Nigerian immunization schedule. At what age should a child receive these vaccines? On what part of the body? What disease entity does it prevent? Read further to find out.
The National Programme on Immunization (NPI) was recently introduced as an upgrade on the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI). This is in line with the fact that immunization and vaccination are two of the most important public health interventions and constitute a cost-effective strategy to reduce both the morbidity and mortality associated with infectious diseases. Over two million childhood deaths are prevented yearly worldwide by this act. However, vaccine preventable diseases still remain the most common cause of childhood mortality with an estimated three million deaths each year. No doubt, there’s a lot more to be done concerning this issue. Let’s start with learning the vaccines.
Before a newborn baby leaves the hospital, the baby is expected to have received three important vaccines viz BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guerin), OPV (Oral Polio vaccine) and HBV (Hepatitis B vaccine). They are given on the upper left arm, the mouth and the thigh respectively. The BCG vaccine protects the baby against tuberculosis while the oral polio vaccine acts against Poliomyelitis. Concerted efforts in the past have now paid off in that polio as a disease is close to being eradicated in Nigeria. HBV acts against the deadly and highly contagious liver disease, hepatitis B. The next round of vaccination is when a child is 6 weeks. The DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) and second shot of OPV are given on the left thigh and in the mouth respectively. The DPT is named after the disease entities it protects against. The next round of vaccines would be at 10 weeks when the child repeats the same vaccines at 6 weeks. At 14 weeks, a child repeats the same vaccines taken at 10 weeks and the second shot of HBV is added making a total of three vaccines.
The next round of vaccines is to be taken at 9 months. The measles and yellow fever vaccines are given here on the upper left and upper right arm respectively. They protect against the disease entities already listed. Prevention of the measles infection is particularly significant in that measles causes a suppression of the immune system in a baby. This is superimposed on the primitive developing immune system of the baby. Also, at 9 months, the baby gets 2 drops of vit A in the mouth. This is repeated at 15 months.
It is hoped that this knowledge will help mothers across Nigeria to take their children for vaccination when due.