In the recent few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed us to the profound vocabulary of medical terms which would have otherwise been foreign to laymen. Amidst these are three broadly used terms which were plastered all over newspaper articles, social media posts, scientific journals and even governmental publications- “immunisation”, “vaccination”, “inoculation”. In a nutshell, these words can be used interchangeably and they refer to the administration of vaccines to prevent infectious diseases.
Vaccines are a type of biological substance that stimulate the body's immune system to create an immune response against a specific disease. Vaccines generally contain an inactive or weakened form of the disease-causing pathogen that can trigger an immune response.
When an individual is immunised, the immune system detects the pathogenic components within the vaccine and sparks an immune response helping the body to attack whilst remembering the pathogen to more efficiently fight it in future infections. This involves the production of antibodies and immune cells that can recognise and destroy the natural fully-active germ if it ever invades the body.
Vaccines are an important tool in preventing the spread of infectious diseases amongst the young and the old. They have been successfully used to greatly reduce, if not totally eradicate the incidences of many diseases throughout the world.
For the young
Every child in Singapore is immunised according to the National Childhood Immunization Schedule (NCIS) recommended by the Ministry of Health (MOH). This begins at birth and is followed through until the child is 18 years of age. Childhood vaccinations play an integral role in structuring a solid foundation for the health of our little ones as their immune system is developing. It is key to ensuring that they get the best protection during their growing year through to adulthood.
Following the NCIS, here are some diseases your child will be vaccinated against:
Chicken pox, Hepatitis, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Pertussis, Polio, Tetanus
For the adults ( >18 years old):
In November 2017, the National Adult Immunisation Schedule (NAIS) was established to provide guidance on vaccinations that individuals aged 18 years or older should adopt to protect themselves against vaccine-preventable diseases. It also aims to prevent disease transmission among vulnerable groups of people like the immuno-compromised and the elderly.
Adults who have not previously received vaccinations are more susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases and may also have an increased risk of complications if they come in contact with infected individuals.
Vaccines recommended for adults:
Chicken pox, Hepatitis, Human Papillomavirus (females), Influenza, Measles, Mumps, Pneumococcal, Rubella
Misconception 1: Vaccines are not safe and can cause serious side effects. Vaccines are rigorously tested for quality and safety before they are approved for use. As with all medicines, side effects can occur after vaccination. However, they are generally mild and will resolve in a few days such as soreness at the injection site or a slight fever. Serious adverse events are very rare.
Misconception 2: Vaccines are not necessary because the diseases they prevent are rare. While it is true that some vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in developed countries, they may still be prevalent in other parts of the world. Additionally, the success of vaccination programmes has led to a decrease in disease cases which can create a false sense of security and inaccurately devalue the benefits of vaccination.
Misconception 3: Frequent immunisation can overload a child’s immune system The numerous vaccinations within the National Childhood Immunisation Schedule may seem slightly daunting for babies as well as parents but there is no need to worry.
The immune system is resilient and will not be negatively affected by receiving simultaneous vaccines. There is also no evidence showing that spacing out vaccines is safer. On the contrary, delaying vaccinations can result in the aggregation of infected individuals and increased risk of transmission leading to disease outbreaks.
Immunisation is an essential part of public health. It is safe, effective, and has proven to prevent suffering and death. By getting vaccinated, we not only protect ourselves but also those around us. Let's work together to maximise the benefits of immunisation! Speak to a Speedoc doctor today to find out if you're suitable for a particular vaccine and we can work out a vaccination plan for you.