The bad news is young children get sick – a lot. The good news is 14 diseases that used to take lives worldwide are no longer a serious threat. Thanks to childhood vaccines, you may not even have heard of some on the list. Find out what they are and when your children need the shots that will keep them safe.

You can get most immunisations for free at state clinics. As a Jet Club member, you can skip the queue and pay reduced rates for vaccines –including some that aren’t on the state schedule. Dial *130*3272*01# and one of our friendly consultants will call you back to make an appointment at any Dis-Chem or Clicks pharmacy.

One of the deadliest diseases the world has seen was smallpox. It existed for at least 3 000 years and killed millions. A worldwide vaccination programme steadily got it under control and in 1979 smallpox was declared eradicated. That’s the power of vaccines.

Poliomyelitis (its full name) is caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system. About one percent of cases develop into paralytic polio, which leads to paralysis of the spinal cord or brain stem. This highly contagious virus is spread through infected faeces or, sometimes, through a sneeze or a cough, as it lives in the throat and intestines. Children under five are more likely to contract it.

First dose: at birth.

This is the most common cause of diarrhoea in infants and children worldwide. Usually starting within two days after exposure, the early symptoms are fever and vomiting, followed by three to seven days of watery diarrhoea. In young children, especially, this could lead to dehydration and with no treatment, it can be life-threatening.

First dose: at 6 weeks.

A bacterium called pneumococcus causes this infection, which is quite common and usually mild but can lead to infections of the ears, sinus, blood or, most commonly, the lungs (pneumococcal pneumonia). It can also become invasive, meaning it gets into parts of the body that are normally germ-free like the brain and spinal cord. Then it can be fatal.

First dose: at 6 weeks.

One vaccine covers these three. Diphtheria can cause a thick covering in the back of the nose or throat that makes it hard to breathe or swallow and it can be deadly. Just as dangerous for babies is pertussis or whooping cough. Mothers should get the vaccine during pregnancy, which passes on some protection to their unborn baby. Tetanus, or lockjaw, can cause breathing problems, paralysis, and death.

First dose: at 6 weeks.

This a viral infection which attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. It is transmitted through contact with blood and the body fluids of infected people and can also spread from a mother to a baby during birth. The virus can survive outside the body for seven days and still infect someone during that time. If it causes chronic infection, the risks of cirrhosis and liver cancer are high.

First dose: at 6 weeks.

The full name is Haemophilus influenzae type B. It can cause very different problems – from skin to blood infections and even meningitis. Hib spreads through mucus or saliva, usually when someone who has the bacteria sneezes or coughs. It is most common in kids under five who haven't been vaccinated.

First dose: at 6 weeks.

Measles is so contagious that a child can contract it by being in a room up to two hours after the infected person has left the room. A telltale rash is a sure sign of the disease. Mumps essentially affects the salivary glands, also called the parotid glands. These glands are responsible for producing saliva and swell up when infected. Rubella, or German measles, is spread by coughing and sneezing. Apart from the red rash, people with German measles usually have a fever and swollen lymph nodes. A pregnant mum can pass on the virus to her developing baby through her bloodstream, increasing the risk of miscarriages, stillbirths and birth defects. Have yourself tested for rubella when you plan to get pregnant. These are prevented with one vaccine.

First dose: at 9 months.

Up to 20 percent of people carry this virus in their nose or throat and it can be spread by droplets in the air after coughs or sneezes or through deep kissing. First symptoms can seem like flu and include fever, a stiff neck, and headaches. These get worse quickly and could lead to meningitis orsepticemia. Treatment is with antibiotics but has to happen quickly, or the diseases could be fatal.

First dose: at 9 months.

The varicella-zoster virus causes a very contagious infection – mostly in children under two, though adults can also get it. It causes up to 500 itchy blisters all over the body. After a few days, the blisters pop and leak, then crust and scab before healing. Anyone who's had chickenpox may develop shingles later in life, which is a painful rash that may produce a strip of blisters on the torso. The pain can linger even after the rash is gone.

First dose: at 12-15 months.

Washing hands will go a long way to protect you against the hepatitis A virus, which is picked up in faeces and spread between people. It’s highly contagious and causes inflammation of the liver, but disappears soon without treatment. Symptoms can include tiredness and pain in the abdomen, though children under six usually show no sign of it. The body is immune to the virus after the first contact.

First dose: 12-15 months.

Human papillomavirusis spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex and so common that most people get it at some stage. Some types can lead to genital warts or cervical cancer, but most are not dangerous, have no symptoms and go away without treatment.

First dose: at 9 years.

Age Vaccine Also known as Protects against
Birth TOPV1 (Trivalent) Oral polio vaccine Polio
Birth BCG Bacillus Calmette Guerin Tuberculosis
6 weeks TOPV 2 (Trivalent) Oral polio vaccine Polio
6 weeks RV1 Rotarix Rotavirus
6 weeks PCV 1 Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine: Prevenar Pneumococcal diseases
6 weeks DTap-IPV//Hib 1 Pentaxim (5-in-one) Diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis (whooping cough), inactivated polio vaccine, haemophilus influenzae type B
6 weeks Hep B 1 Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
10 weeks DTap-IPV//Hib 2 Pentaxim Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenzae type B
10 weeks Hep B 2 Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
14 weeks RV 2 Rotarix Rotavirus
14 weeks PCV 2 Prevenar Pneumococcal diseases
14 weeks DTap-IPV//Hib 3 Pentaxim Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenzae type B
14 weeks Hep B 3 Hepatitis B vaccine Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
6/9 months Measles 1 Measles vaccine Measles
9 months PCV 3 Prevenar Pneumococcal diseases
12/18 months Measles 2 Measles vaccine Measles
18 months DTap-IPV//Hib 4 Pentaxim Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, haemophilus influenzae type B
6 years Td 1 Diftavax Tetanus, diphtheria
9 years HPV 1 (girls) - Human papilloma virus
9.5 years HPV 2 (girls) - Human papilloma virus
12 years Td 2 Diftavax Tetanus, diphtheria

There are different combinations and schedules for vaccines. Get the full details from your Dis-Chem or Clicks pharmacy and keep your child's vaccine card in a safe place. Find out more about the Jet Club Pharmacy Benefit here.

Sources: Discovery.co.za; Gov.za/ 
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