First Look Asia tackles childhood vaccinations — after all, Mark Zuckerberg makes sure his baby girl gets them…

Jabs junior needs to have

Guest, Associate Professor Chong Chia Yin, senior consultant, Department of Paediatrics, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Q Why is it important for children to get vaccinated?
Children need special attention during their early years to ensure that they have healthy development and vaccination is a way of optimising their healthy development — therefore parents need to ensure that children get their vaccinations on time.

Q How do vaccines work?
They are a form of the weakened bacteria or virus that is introduced into the body and the body will mount an antibody response to the vaccine to ensure that the body is able to fight infection. This type of “imitation” infection does not cause any disease to the patient but helps the body to fight the infection. When a large majority of the population is vaccinated, it means that a majority of the children is immune to the infection and this is called “herd immunity”.

Q What are some vaccines that provides lifelong immunity when you complete the whole course?
Three doses of hepatitis B at birth or two doses of measles vaccines at 12 months of age.

Q If a parent forgets to follow up with the vaccination, what happens?
Parents can just catch up with it.

Q Do vaccines always work?

A Vaccines work 90 to 99 per cent of the time. There is a small percentage of population who may not get protected after vaccination. That’s why it is important for a majority of the population to get vaccinated, so that they will protect the ones who are not vaccinated.

Q Should parents delay a scheduled vaccination if their children are sick?

A If a child has mild upper respiratory problems, they should not delay; but if the child is seriously ill — like high fever — the immune system does not respond optimally to the vaccination and hence parents should delay.

Photo: INGimage

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Q What should parent take note of after a vaccination and what care needs to be given to the child?
Some vaccines tend to produce a reaction, such as the measles vaccination. Children may develop a fever six to 12 days after the vaccination, with or without a rash. That is a normal reaction to the vaccine.

Q There are reports to measles vaccination causes autism. Is there any truth to that?
It has been proven, from many studies that measles vaccination does not cause autism but may cause a typical reaction to vaccination (fever).

Q Recently Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of him bringing his daughter for vaccination but anti-vaccinators sparked an online debate. What is your view on this?

A Vaccines taken at the proper scheduled time will protect you and is the most cost-effective public-health tool to prevent infections, so I would recommend parents to bring their children for vaccinations.

Q Is there any benefit to combination vaccines?
Combination vaccines help to reduce the doses of vaccines the child needs to receive so there is less pain and you are able to complete the vaccinations on schedule. Combination vaccines are generally given once the baby hits 6 weeks old — but in Singapore, vaccinations are usually given at 2-3 months old with subsequent shots given at least 1 month later. Even babies are able to withstand combination vaccines at this age.

Q Do you think the benefits outweigh the risk of vaccination?

Q With chickenpox vaccination being optional, would you recommend parents to give it to their children?
Yes, starting with the first dose at 12 months and the second dose three months later.

Click here for the original First Look Asia video.

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