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Childhood Immunisations

 

Getting our children immunised is essential for their wellness and that of their friends. It can be a difficult decision sometimes but the effects of not being immunised can be devastating to oneself and also to our community. Please speak to any of the doctors if you have any doubts as to what is best. Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting your child against certain diseases. The risks from having these diseases are far greater than the risk of any minor side effects from immunisation.

 

What causes infection?

Infections are caused by germs entering the body through cuts or by being breathed in or swallowed. The germs then may cause diseases such as meningitis (infection of the lining around the brain), pneumonia (a lung infection) or septicaemia (blood poisoning).

 

What is a contagious disease?

A contagious disease is one that spreads from one person (someone who is infected or is a ‘carrier’) to another, often through coughs and sneezes. Carriers are people who ’carry’ germs in their body but are not sick themselves. For example, 1 in 10 people carries meningococcal germs in their nose but only 1 in 10,000 gets sick with meningitis or septicaemia from those germs.

 

How does my child’s body fight infection?

When germs infect your child’s body, their immune system makes ‘antibodies’. Antibodies do two things.

Their first job is to attack and destroy the germs. However, because it takes the body time to make enough antibodies, the germs may damage your child’s body before the antibodies can destroy them.

Their second job is to stay in your child’s body to protect them against future infections. If the same germs try to infect your child again, the antibodies will destroy the germs before they have a chance to make your child sick. This way of dealing with germs is called ‘immunity’. It is why most people get diseases like measles or chickenpox only once, even though they might be exposed to them many times.

The problem with getting natural immunity from germs is that your child has to get sick before they develop immunity. In fact, some germs could make your child very sick or even kill them before their body could produce enough antibodies to destroy the germs.

 

How do vaccines work?

When your child is given a vaccine, their body responds by making antibodies, the same as if they had caught a disease but without getting sick. Their body then produces antibodies to destroy the vaccine and these stay in your child’s body and protect them against the actual disease.

 

What is in vaccines?

Vaccines contain active ingredients (the vaccine itself) and additives such as preservatives and stabilisers.

Active ingredients
Vaccines are made from the same germs that cause infections. But the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so that they won’t make your child sick and are safe to use.

Additives: Vaccines may contain:

  • a small amount of preservative to protect the vaccine from contamination;
  • other additives to make sure that the active vaccine ingredient is evenly mixed throughout the injection mixture; and a small amount of aluminium salt, which helps the body to respond better to the vaccine.
  • The level of additives in vaccines is very low and within internationally recommended levels. These additives do not cause any serious health problems in babies and young children.

 

How long do vaccines take to work?

It usually takes a few weeks for vaccines to work, so your child will not be protected immediately. Also, most vaccines need to be given several times to build up long-lasting protection. For example, a child who gets only one or two doses of the whooping cough vaccine is only partly protected against that disease and may still catch whooping cough.

 

Are vaccines safe?

The vaccines used in Ireland are safe. All medicines can cause side effects, but with vaccines these are usually mild, like a sore arm or leg or a slight fever. Serious side effects to vaccines are extremely rare.

Research from around the world shows that immunisation is the safest way to protect your child’s health. Your doctor or nurse can discuss the risks with you before giving your child their vaccines.

All the recommended vaccines used to protect children in Ireland are licensed by the Irish Medicines Board or the European Medicines Evaluation Agency . They are allowed to be used only after they have been shown to be both effective and safe.


What about all the scare stories?

We know that vaccines don’t cause autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, allergies, asthma or attention deficit disorder. However, when things happen to our children around the same time as they are immunised we can wrongly presume that there is a link. For example, the signs of autism usually become noticeable at about the age when children are given the MMR vaccine, but one does not cause the other. Because most children get immunised, those who have conditions such as autism, asthma or attention deficit disorder (commonly known as hyperactivity) will probably have been immunised as well. Studies to see if children who have been immunised are more likely to have these conditions have shown that there is no link between the conditions and vaccines.

 

Can my child's body cope with so many vaccines at one time?

Yes, your child's body can cope with a combination of vaccines given at the same time.

From the moment your child is born, they have to cope with tens of thousands of bacteria and viruses every day. Your child's immune system responds to all these challenges and prevents them from causing harm.

It has been estimated that the immune system of each infant is able to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time.

 

What research is there about vaccine safety?

Extensive research into the MMR vaccine, involving thousands of children, was carried out in the UK, the USA, Sweden, and Finland. This research showed that there is no link between MMR and autism. A study looked at every child born in Denmark from 1991 to 1998. During that time, 82% of children born in Denmark received the MMR vaccine. The researchers looked at the records of over half a million children and found the risk of autism was the same in immunised children as in children who had not been immunised. Experts from around the world, including the World Health Organisation , agree that there is no link between MMR and autism.

Experts from around the world, including the World Health Organisation , also agree that there is no link between the MMR vaccine and inflammatory bowel disease.

Over the past 30 years, more than 500 million doses of MMR vaccine have been given in over 90 countries.

 
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