Immunization is the process where by a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease by the administration of a vaccine. Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease. Immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life threatening infectious diseases and is estimated to avert 2-3 million deaths each year. It is one of the most cost effective health investments with proven strategies that make it accessible to even the most hard to reach and vulnerable population.
Vaccines could be divided in to different groups as follows:- Live vaccines, Killed vaccines, Recombinant vaccines and Toxoids. Vaccines are recommended for different groups of individuals namely, infants & children, travellers, immunocompromised patients, elderly, patients with chronic diseases- cardiac, respiratory, liver,renal and diabetics.
Infants and children are the most vulnerable group for infectious diseases and they are protected from these diseases by timely vaccination at different ages recommended in the expanded programme of immunization (EPI) in each country depending on the prevalence of disease. These vaccines are mandatory and it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their child is given the vaccine at the appropriate age according to the EPI schedule. It is important that the vaccines administered are of good quality and safe and should be obtained from a reliable immunization clinic. As the route of immunization differ for each vaccine, the health care provider should be knowledgeable and well experienced regarding this fact. Many adverse events following immunization specially in infants and children have been attributed to this.
- Infants and children
In every country, vaccines recommended in the EPI schedule are considered as essential vaccines. Should be administered at the appropriate age irrespective whether it is administered through the public or private sector clinics . There are certain vaccines which are only available in the private sector (rota virus, pneumococcal, chicken pox, hepatitis A, typhoid etc.) which are not mandatory , but can be obtained depending on the parent’s choice. Pre term infants, infants with cardiac , respiratory, renal and other comorbidity diseases should be considered for the special vaccines mentioned above.
- International travellers
Unlike in the past, a large number of persons travel abroad for varied reasons such as :- business, leisure, educational, medical advice, religious etc.
Diseases for which one is exposed in a foreign country may be quite different to the diseases prevalent in Sri Lanka. It is best to seek advice from an expert who is knowledgeable on this subject at least 3 months before departure as most vaccines consist of more than one dose for one to get adequately protected.
- Special groups of people – Immunocompromised patients, patients with other medical problems, the elderly
These persons are recommended special vaccines depending on their vulnerability to specific diseases for which they should obtain medical advice early. Eg:- before renal transplant, before commencement of chemotherapy for malignancy, before cardiac by pass surgery etc.
It is important to follow medical advice and take all doses of vaccine at the recommended dates as certain vaccines consist of more than one dose and keep the immunization records safely to submit when necessary. Any adverse event following immunization should be reported immediately to the health care provider.
Contact the Western Hospital Vaccination Center for more information regarding vaccinations: +94 11 739 2260 / +94 11 268 5413
Dr. Omala Wimalaratne is a senior consultant Vaccinologist & Virologist who has more than 20 years experience in her speciality. She was the head of the Dept. of Vaccines & Rabies, Medical Research Institute(MRI) from 1995 – 2014. She is the first vaccinologist in Sri Lanka.