Immunization schedule or vaccination schedule is the organized timeline given by government of the country based on the guidelines given by the World Health Organization and the country’s own medical professionals. The immunization schedule prescribes when and how the vaccines have to be administered in a child’s life, starting from birth.
Vaccines stimulate the baby’s immune system to create antibodies, similar to the stimulation by an actual disease causing germ. But the vaccine contains only mild forms of dead germs against which the body is creating antibodies, the baby does not have to experience the symptoms of the disease, yet create antibodies against the same, which will be there for life.
Although every country has its own vaccination schedule, the following is a list of vaccines given on a global basis, with varying timelines of the dosage.
- Bacille Calmette-Guerin, popularly known as BCG, is a vaccine to prevent tuberculosis and is given within 72 hours of birth in countries with high prevalence of the disease. It provides protection against childhood tuberculosis meningitis and miliary disease. In some countries like the United States, BCG is considered for very selective persons on recommendation by Tuberculosis expert. It is generally given intra-dermal, that is underneath the skin, on the left upper arm of the infant.
- Hepatitis B birth dose is also given as early as within 24-48 hours of birth, to prevent the condition of hepatitis B, a highly infectious condition that can damage the liver. The dosage is usually distributed into three shots – one immediately after birth, next after 28 days of the 1st shot and the third after the infant is 24 weeks old. Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for adults above 18 years of age in 2 doses, one month apart.
- Polio vaccine is given as oral drops and prevent poliovirus infection which can cause a crippling condition for life, as it invades the person’s brain and spinal cord resulting in paralysis of parts of the body. Active oral polio drops are given when the child is 2 months old, 4 months old and 6 months old. Inactive polio drops are again given as a single to the child between the age of of 4-6 years old. In some countries, polio vaccines are given on an annual basis for children below 5 years. Two doses are given one-month apart on specific dates so that children below 5 years of age can avail in their nearest health center.
- Rotavirus is a highly infectious disease causing watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. The child gets severely dehydrated if not attended immediately. There are two variants of rotavirus vaccines. The RV5 vaccine is given in 3 doses at 2, 4 and 6 months of the baby’s age. RV1 variant vaccine is given when the baby is 2 and 4 months of age.
- Measles, Mumps and Rubela vaccine is given as a combination against the three diseases. The first dose is given at the age of 12 to 15 months and the second dose is around 4 to 6 years of age. Measles and rubella are diseases which present as rashes and fever, and mumps affects the salivary glands. The three diseases can leave a permanent damage to brain, hearing or vision, therefore protection is required against them.
- DPT vaccine protects against three diseases, namely, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. Diphtheria causes difficulty in breathing, heart failure, paralysis and death. Tetanus is a serious muscular stiffness and pertussis, also called whooping cough, causes uncontrolled violent coughing making it difficult to breathe, eat or drink. The vaccine is given in three doses. Earlier, the vaccine was recommended to be given at the age of one month and the second and third dose in one-month intervals. Development of a painless vaccine has changed the dose to the first one at 16-24 months and the second at the age of 5-6 years.
- Tetatnus is given as a separate dose at the age of around 10 and 16 years. Tetanus is stiffening of muscles that results in inability to open mouth, swallowing or any other movements.
- HPV vaccine protects against the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer in women. The first dose can be given at the age of 15 years and the second and third doses can be given at regular intervals within next 6 months.