Vaccines – A Parent's Guide For Children


Vaccines contribute to significant reduction of childhood diseases such as Diptheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio, Haemophilus Influenzae type-b and Hepatitis B to name a few. Parents should take the time to learn the facts about the benefits and risks of vaccination.

Also, learn about the potential consequences of not vaccinating against certain diseases. As a service provider, plain language should be used in communicating information about vaccines and their use to an individual. Printed information should also be available to compliment any verbal explanations.

Parents should know that the risk of having a reaction to a vaccine is much smaller than the risk of serious illness that comes with infectious diseases. Some parents are surprised to learn that children can die of measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases. The bacteria or virus that causes vaccine-preventable diseases and death still exists and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines.

In Australia and the United States of America, vaccine coverage rate is high as a result of successful vaccination programs. Infant deaths caused by childhood diseases have almost disappeared.

Vaccination not only protects individuals, but also others in the community, by increasing the general level of immunity and minimizing the spread of infection. Vaccines may contain live, (attenuated) or killed (inactivated) forms of disease causing bacteria or viruses. They trigger a response by the body's immune system when injected or given by mouth. Vaccines stimulate the body to make antibodies – proteins that specifically recognize and target the disease causing bacteria and viruses, and help eliminate them from the body. It is important that the public be made aware of the proven effectiveness of immunization to save lives and prevent serious illness.

Occupational Health and Safety have put in place strict guidelines for the development of vaccines. The vaccines are developed with the highest safety standards. Every Service Provider should have an anaphylaxis response kit ready at all times. Vaccine storage is strictly monitored in purpose-built refrigerators with a 24hour temperature monitoring gauge. Vaccines being transported from main storage facility to external clinics, use the cold chain transport system.

Diphtheria – Can infect the throat, causing a thick covering that can lead to problems with breathing, paralysis, or heart failure.

Tetanus (Lockjaw) – Caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The bacteria are spread from the environment to open wounds where they can enter the blood stream. Toxins can cause muscle spasms, lockjaw, difficulty speaking / breathing, stiffness and pain in the shoulders, back and neck.

Whooping Cough – Is caused by a highly infectious bacterial spread by droplet and causing upper respiratory and lung infections. Symptoms include coughing and 'whooping'. Complications of the disease is lack of oxygen to the brain leading to brain damage and possible death.

Polio -Is caused by a virus, and symptoms of the disease include headache, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, neck and back stiffness and severe muscle pain. Polio can cause meningitis and paralysis.

Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib) – Commonly found in the upper respiratory tract (lungs and windpipe), Hib can cause infection in children under 2 years, because they do not have the necessary antibodies to fight this infection. Hib infection can cause meningitis (an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord), epiglottitis (severe swelling of the throat), arthritis and pneumonia.

Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B can cause liver infections and damage, liver cancer and death. Symptoms include, weakness, tiredness, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal discomfort, pain, muscle and joint pain, skin rashes, jaundice.

Pneumococcal Infections – The bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord), pneumonia, septiacaemia (blood infection), and middle ear and sinus infections. Symptoms can include vomiting, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness, poor appetite, confusion, irritability and drowsiness. May include fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing.

Varicella (Chickenpox) – chickenpox is a highly contagious infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is a member of the herpes group of viruses. Symptoms can include a rash that turns into open itchy, lesions which will crust over. Complications can include skin infection of the lesions, scarring, pneumonia, difficulty walking and balancing, meningitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis (brain infection).

Measles – A highly infectious disease, measles is caused by the Morbillivirus. It is spread from person to person through droplets in the air. Measles is a respiratory infection that causes skin rash and flu-like symptoms. Also fever, cough, runny nose, and, inflammation of the eye are common symptoms. Complications of measles include ear, brain and lung infections, which can lead to brain damage and death.

Mumps – Caused by a virus, mumps is a salivary gland infection. the mumps virus is passed through air droplets and contact with the saliva of an infected person. Common symptoms include fever, headache and swollen glands, especially salivary glands. It can effect other glands such as the testicles. ovaries, pancreas, liver and brain. It can also cause sterility in some men, and lead to deafness in some people.

Rubella (German Measles) – Caused by a virus. this virus is spread from person to person through droplets in the air. It is an infection of the skin and lymph nodes. Symptoms can include rash, lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph glands), and joint pain which sometimes leads to arthritis. Rubella infection during pregnancy can lead to birth defects.

Meningococcal Infections – Caused by a number of different strains of the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, it is a serious disease. It is a leading cause of bacgterial meningitis in children 2 – 18 years old in the United States. Meningitis is an infection of fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can also cause septicaemia, pneumonia, arthritis and conjunctivitis. Symptoms include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, irritability and drowsiness.

Rotavirus – Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and young children, causing around half of all hospitalized causes of gastroenteritis in children less than 5 years of age. This viral infection of the stomach and intestines can cause sever diarrhoea and vomiting, and fever, which may lead to serious dehydration. The illness can begin abruptly and up to one third of affected children have a temperature of higher than 390 C in the first few days of the illness.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that cause skin warts, genital warts and some cancers. Many different types of HPV can affect different parts of the body. HPV types that can cause genital warts or cervical cancer can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during all types of sexual activity with a person who has the virus. Symptoms of cervical cancer, including abnormal and precancerous vaginal and vulvar lesions, and genital warts in females ages 9 to 26. Gardasil is licensed for the prevention of cervical cancer.

All of the above are preventable childhood diseases. Common possible side effects from the vaccinations include soreness, redness, warmth and swelling at the injection site, fever, irritability, drowsiness, mild rash, loss of appetite, muscle aches, diarrhoea or vomiting.

You as the parent must tell your Health Care Provider beforehand if:

  • Your child has a known or weakened immune system,
  • is allergic to any of the ingredients of the vaccine, or
  • has ever had an allergic reaction after getting a dose of the vaccine.
  • Or if your child is moderately or severely ill or had a reaction to the antibotics neomycin, streptomycin, polymyxin B, gelatin, or eggs.

Vaccination recommended for routine childhood immunization is listed on the National Immunization Program (NIP) Schedule and funded for children under the Immunise Australia and USA Program.

Vaccination is an important step in getting children off to a healthy start and has contributed to a significant reduction in many childhood diseases. Children or adults can be re-vaccinated (with some, but not all vaccinations) if their immunity from the vaccines falls to a low level or if previous research has shown that a booster vaccination is required for long-term protection.

It's important to remember that vaccinations are many times safer than the diseases they prevent !!