Child Vaccination in Kenya
The first year of a child’s life forms the foundation for his future development. During this period, parents are tasked with the responsibility of pursuing the best and healthiest options for their children to ensure that they develop well and fight diseases. Children are born with a very weak immunity, which is boosted through breastfeeding and vaccination. Taking a child for immunization helps in boosting the immunity to deal with common diseases that cause mortality in children. Some provide immunity that lasts through the developmental period such as polio vaccine.
Vaccination is the process of introducing weakened disease pathogens healthy individuals to trigger the production of antibodies against some diseases. The Ministry of Health is the Kenyan body mandated with the task of regulating vaccination of children. The ministry performs its actions through the Division of Vaccines and Immunization. The ministry established the Kenya Expanded Program on Immunization in 1978 to provide the immunization schedule. The schedule is revised from time to time depending on the emerging diseases affecting children, with the aim of reducing child mortality.
Some of the vaccines given include:
- BCG is given to newborn at birth or before two weeks.
- OPV- the vaccine is given to babies at birth (or before two weeks) and weeks 6, 10 and 14.
- HEP.B- the vaccine is given at birth to two weeks, and at 6, 10 and 14 weeks.
- DPT- the vaccine is given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks.
- Pneumococcal- the vaccine is given at 6, 10 and 14 weeks.
- Rota Virus- the vaccine is administered at 6, 10, and 14 weeks. Rotavirus causes diarrhea and vomiting leading to dehydration and death.
- Vitamin a supplementation at six months
- Measles and yellow fever vaccine at nine months
Diseases immunized against
TB is a highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory system. TB has symptoms such as fever, deep chest cough that lasts more than two weeks and sweating at night. Infants are immunized against TB at birth or before two weeks through an injection on the upper left arm. A small scar appears at the site of injection. If the scar does not appear, vaccination should be repeated.
Polio is a severe disease spread through oral-fecal route. The disease causes paralysis of the limbs and is a significant cause of disability in children. The Oral Polio Vaccine, administered through the mouth is administered to prevent the occurrence of polio. Symptoms of polio include flaccid paralysis of the limbs, pain, vomiting, and fever. When not treated early, polio may cause permanent deformity.
Whooping cough or pertussis is an air-borne disease characterized by a severe cough that is accompanied by a whoop, vomiting, malnutrition. The disease is fatal and very severe in children below the age of one.
Diphtheria is an air communicable disease characterized by difficulty in breathing and swallowing, an enlarged neck. The condition, if it occurs, is very severe.
Measles (rubeola) is a highly infectious skin disease characterized by rash, fever, red eyes, cough, blindness, malnutrition, deafness, pneumonia. Measles is a deadly disease.
Hepatitis B is another highly infectious disease spread through contact with body fluids. The infection may be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and birth. If not treated, hepatitis B causes complications such as liver cirrhosis, acute and chronic hepatitis, glomerulonephritis and vascular disease.
Yellow fever is a viral disease characterized by pain in the muscles, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, malaise, delirium, vomiting, back and abdominal pain and jaundice due to liver damage. The virus is passed through infected mosquitoes.
Mothers and the primary caregivers are advised to ensure that their children are immunized. The vaccinations given should be recorded in an immunization chart or the antenatal and child booklet issued to parents during their prenatal visits. Skipped immunizations should be provided within the recommended timeframe. In case the child gets ill before they are vaccinated, the vaccine should be issued as soon as they heal.