Vaccines do not make children sick, nor do they weaken the immune system. On the contrary, immunisation prevents illnesses, stops the spread of infectious diseases, and saves thousands of lives across the country every year. If close to 95% of people are immune to an illness, it becomes highly unlikely that the disease will start or spread. Understanding how vaccines work is just as important as making sure your child receives the entire course according to the recommended schedule.
Your child’s body is a sophisticated system of cells, proteins, and chemical mediators that are hard-wired to rid the body of anything not belonging in the body. Antigens - whether bacterial, viral or toxins - are substances that can trigger this particular response in the organisation irrespective of how they enter the body.
What happens during vaccination?
When a child is vaccinated, a disabled antigen is introduced into the body. This makes the immune system produce the necessary antibodies needed to deal with the threat on a small scale. What happens in the process is that the body learns how to recognise and deal with that threat. If it has to deal with the same threat in the future, it’s proven to react faster and more efficiently, thus protecting the child from what can often be life-threatening illnesses.
A temporary side effect of vaccination is developing a mild fever or some pain and swelling at the site of the injection. In some cases, like the flu vaccine, which takes up to 2 weeks to become active - the child could unknowingly already be infected by the flu before getting the vaccine. This can seem like the vaccine gave them the flu, but it’s simply not true.
The risk of disease from vaccination is minimal. Often the total number of antigens most kids are exposed while just playing on the beach or in a park is far higher than the number of antigens received during immunisation, which most children can handle easily.
Can vaccines overwhelm a child’s immune system?
Short answer - NO! Babies are like blank slates when it comes to vaccines. Just like training a child for any sport is best started early, if we prepare children’s immune systems early on, they are better equipped to handle future risks. But irrespective of how old the child is, as long as they don’t have a compromised immune system - due to AIDS and Cancer for e.g., the body will always continue to recognise and learn how to kill threats in case of exposure.
India is among the major buyers and makers of vaccines, locally as well as globally, and has traditionally aimed at self-reliance in terms of vaccine technologies and production.
Today vaccines are prepared while adhering to the highest safety standards and are far more efficient than they used to be. The government recommended vaccination schedule is a great guide to gauge which vaccines are needed at what age, but if you have doubts, talk to your paediatrician or medical caregiver for more information.
Choosing to vaccinate your child at the earliest is not only the best way to protect them, but it is also the best form of protection for your entire community.