Pediatrics

Vaccines

How does a vaccine work?For almost two hundred years vaccines have been around in the western world and have helped society combat harmful diseases which are otherwise hard to combat.

Although vaccines can produce adverse reactions in some individuals, it is safe to say that without them, human beings would slowly bring back harmful diseases that have taken hundreds of years to combat.

How does a vaccine work?

Vaccines work by introducing inactive proteins from bacteria and viruses that trigger a response from the human organism allowing it to create a natural line of defense.

Shortly after the administration of a vaccine, the body is able to freely defend itself against such related bacteria or viruses from which the vaccine was made.

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases:

Diphtheria: a harmful bacterial infection, this disease acts by creating thick black or gray layers in the back of the throat, affecting the mucous membranes of the respiratory system. Among the symptoms of diphtheria are high fever, difficulty in swallowing and breathing, skin lesions, and general weakness. In worst case scenarios diphtheria can lead to paralysis and heart failure.

Tetanus: also a vaccine-preventable disease is caused by a toxin released by the Clostridium Tetani bacteria. This disease is also known as lockjaw, due to the common symptom of the jaw muscles contracting causing them to lock, preventing the patient from eating. The muscles involved in breathing can also be affected ultimately threatening the life of the patient. Even though treatment for tetanus is available, the mortality rate is high, and the best way to avoided is through vaccination.

Vaccine-Preventable DiseasesPertussis: also known as the whooping cough, the main symptom is uncontrollable and violent coughing. This disease is caused by the Bordetella Pertussis bacteria. Children are the main group at risk when it comes to Pertussis and can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and brain damage.

Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (Hib): a serious bacterial illness, Haemophilus can cause meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal cords), pneumonia, and blood infections, amongst other life threatening conditions. Children under 5 years of age are extremely susceptible.

Hepatitis A: caused by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis is a liver disease compromising its functionality. It is generally acquired by the use of toilets and close personal contact (including sexual contact) of individuals already infected, and may also be passed on by consuming contaminated food or water. Especific world regions still present high risk for Hepatitis A. Among these are Mexico, parts of Central and South America, South-East Asia, Eastern Europe, and most of the African continent.

Hepatitis B (HBV): it can be contracted through body fluids such as those exchanged during sex intercourse and through infected blood. There is no cure for Hepatitis B, but it can be prevented through vaccination. Amongst the symptoms are liver failure, a permanent scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis, and even liver cancer. Children are much more susceptible to this disease.

Measles: also known as rubeola, measles is common disease during childhood and can have serious adverse effects on health. Babies and younger children are especially vulnerable and high at risk in regards to symptoms. These can range from coughs, runny nose, fever, and rash to serious ear infections, pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death.

Meningococcal: one of the most serious diseases, Meningococcal is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis. The main symptom of meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges; the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Fungal, bacteria, and viruses can lead to meningitis. It is a rare disease with a high mortality rate.

Mumps: mainly spread through infected saliva. It affects primarily the parotid glands. These are the glands mainly responsible for the production of saliva itself. Although serious symptoms are rare, they can include high fever, headaches, loss of appetite, swelling of the temples, and generalized pain in the body and face.

Polio: although largely eradicated in the United States, this disease continues to present itself in the developing world. Contamination occurs mainly though the mouth. Although rarely resulting in death, polio affects the muscles, many times permanently result in the paralysis of arms or legs. In serious cases, it may affect the muscles necessary for breathing. Vaccination against polio is highly advised, especially for small children.

Rotavirus: common during winter and spring, the main symptoms of this virus are severe diarrhea and afflict mainly young children. Specifically, the virus poses the greatest threat to children below 5 years of age. The greatest danger is posed by dehydration which can occur rather quickly depending on the patient. Vaccination is recommended among babies as soon as 6 weeks of age in order to avoid serious complications.

Rubella: is a viral disease and although it is also known as the German Measles it is Not the same as the Measles. Not as severe as the measles, rubella has the common symptom of skin rashes. It is also accompanied by fever, headaches, and pain the in the muscles and joints. This disease is specially dangerous to pregnant women who if contaminated can adversely affect the unborn child causing serious birth defects.

Varicella: commonly known as Chickenpox, this infectious disease is caused by the varicella virus. It affects mostly children under 16 years of age, but it can also infect adults. The main symptoms are severe rashes, itching, and fever. If not treated properly it can evolve into skin infections, pneumonia, brain damage, and sometimes even death.

From the time of Benjamin Franklin in the sixteen century, vaccines started to make their way into United States and have played a key role all over the world in decreasing mortality rates and providing for a healthier population.

Vaccination is of extreme importance in the early years of life due to infants more vulnerable immune systems. Vaccines are necessary and free under either government programs or that of insurance.

Recommended Immunization Schedule for Person Aged 0 through 6 yeas Recommended Immunization Schedule for Person Aged 7 through 18 yeas
Source: Department of Health and Human Services • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov)