Vaccinations: the top 16 available in SA

Posted on May 23rd, 2019

South Africa offers extensive vaccinations, but do you understand what you’re protecting your child against with a vaccine?

Vaccinations

South Africa offers extensive vaccinations, but do you understand what you’re protecting your child against with a vaccine?

Immunisation, vaccinations, inoculation – dreaded terms for any new parent as it means a clinic visit and painful injections for your little one. With foreign-sounding disease names and abbreviations, many parents don’t fully understand exactly what they’re immunising their children against. Another common concern is whether they must follow the government or private vaccination schedule.

ALSO SEE: The 4 biggest vaccination myths busted

Government vs private vaccinations

The South African Department of Health uses the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI), which offers vaccinations against “the big six” diseases – polio, tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus. New vaccines have been introduced to the programme as they have been developed, allowing protection against haemophilus influenza type B, pneumococcal disease, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus and rotavirus. All children can receive these vaccinations.

The EPI vaccinations are available for free at government clinics. Certain private clinics receive government vaccines, too, but parents pay a consultation fee for the clinic’s services.

The so-called private schedule consists of a few additional vaccines available on the market that are not included in the EPI. You have the option to purchase these vaccines for your children. Additional vaccines are available against meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis A, chickenpox, mumps and German measles.

Whether you choose to give your child these additional vaccines depends on:

  • Whether you can afford it
  • Whether your child is in day care, as this would mean increased exposure
  • Other medical conditions that could make your child more vulnerable to diseases
  • The seriousness of the disease being vaccinated against.

Which illnesses do vaccinations cover?

Diseases covered in the government programme EPI include:

1.Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus affecting the liver.

Mode of transmission: Via bodily fluids during contact with blood and from mother to baby during birth.

Signs and symptoms

Fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, joint pain, dark urine, pale stools and yellow discolouration of the eyes.

Complications

Permanent liver damage and liver cancer.

2.Tetanus

Tetanus is a horrific disease that causes painful muscular spasms.

Mode of transmission: Through an opening in the skin from contaminated objects or soil. Neonatal tetanus can occur in newborn babies due to unhygienic treatment of the umbilical cord.

Signs and symptoms

Headache, jaw clamping, painful muscle spasms, trouble swallowing, seizures, fever and sweating.

Complications

Uncontrolled spasms of the vocal cords, bone fractures, pneumonia, breathing difficulty and death.

3.Pneumococcal disease

This refers to infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria.

Mode of transmission: Respiratory droplets.

Signs and symptoms

Causes ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis.

Complications

The above conditions can cause hearing damage, brain damage and death.

4.Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a stomach bug.

Mode of transmission: Via the faecal-oral route.

Signs and symptoms

Diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.

Complications

Dehydration. In rare cases, it can cause kidney and liver abnormalities.

5.Pertussis

Pertussis or “whooping cough” is a serious infection of the upper respiratory tract. Pertussis is common in South Africa.

Mode of transmission: Respiratory droplets.

Signs and symptoms

Initially flu symptoms, then severe coughing fits followed by a high-pitched ‘whoop’ and breathing that stops, followed by severe exhaustion. The cough can be long lasting, hence the name “the 100 day cough”.

Complications

pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage, rib fractures and death.

6.Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection. Currently, there are big outbreaks of measles in Europe and Madagascar. South Africa had an outbreak of 18 000 cases between 2009 and 2010.

Mode of transmission: Via droplets that can remain in the air for up to two hours after an infected person left the area.

Signs and symptoms

High fever and flu-like symptoms, pink eyes, white spots on the inner cheeks, diarrhoea, and a fine rash on the face that spreads to the rest of the body.

Complications

Brain damage, ear infections, seizures, pneumonia and death.

ALSO SEE: Baby measles: look out for these symptoms

7.Diptheria

A respiratory infection causing a thick membrane at the back of the throat.

Mode of transmission: Respiratory droplets.

Signs and symptoms

Sore throat, coughing, swollen lymph nodes, fever and skin rash

Complications

A blocked airway, damage to the heart muscle, nerve damage, paralysis, pneumonia and death.

8.Polio

Polio is a viral infection affecting the central nervous system. It’s targeted for global eradication.

Mode of transmission: Spreads via the faecal-oral route, which is when an organism in the faeces of one person is ingested through contaminated drinking water or poor hygiene practices.

Signs and symptoms

Fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and painful limbs.

Complications

Paralysis of the limbs, aseptic meningitis and death.

9.Tuberculosis (TB)

TB affects the lungs and occasionally the brain and other organs. South Africa has one of the worst TB epidemics in the world.

Mode of transmission: Respiratory droplets.

Signs and symptoms

Coughing, weakness, failure to thrive, weight loss, fever and night sweats.

Complications

It can spread to other organs where it can cause death. The BCG vaccine, given at birth, protects the individual against this spread.

10.Haemophilus Influenza Type B (HIB)

A severe bacterial infection most common in babies under one year.

Mode of transmission: Respiratory droplets.

Signs and symptoms

Causes infections like meningitis, pneumonia and arthritis.

Complications

Permanent hearing loss and death.

11.Influenza or flu

The flu vaccine can be given each year before the start of the influenza season. The vaccine changes every year as the flu viruses constantly change.

Mode of transmission: Respiratory droplets.

Signs and symptoms

Fever, chills, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, headaches and tiredness.

Complications

Pneumonia, inflammation of the heart and ear infections. Complications are more common in young children, old people, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions.

ALSO SEE: 7 flu myths debunked

Additional vaccinations on the private schedule

12.Meningococcal Meningitis

Although rare, meningococcal meningitis can rapidly lead to severe complications or death.

Mode of transmission: Via saliva during close contact like kissing and coughing, or lengthy contact with someone living in the same household.

Signs and symptoms

Fever, headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity and confusion. Infants may appear inactive and irritable, and can have nausea or feed poorly.

Complications

Paralysis, seizures and death. Long-term complications include mental retardation, learning disability, hearing loss and amputation of limbs, fingers and toes.

Vaccine information

The vaccine can be given from nine months of age. Children under the age of two need two doses of the vaccine three months apart, while those older than two years receive only one dose.

Cost estimation: R785 per dose

13.Hepatitis A

A viral infection of the liver. In areas with poor sanititation up to 95% of children have been infected, which means immunity by the age of five years.

Mode of transmission: Via the faecal-oral route.

Signs and symptoms

Similar to that of hepatitis B. Small children are often symptomatic, but older children and grown-ups can get very sick.

Complications

Symptoms can last up to two months, with liver failure and death in rare cases.

Vaccine information

Vaccination in children aims to prevent them from getting the disease later in life. Two doses of the vaccine are given six months apart from one year.

Cost estimation: R300-R400 per dose.

14.German measles

A viral infection that can cause severe abnormalities in a baby if a mother gets the infection in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Mode of transmission: Droplet infection.

Signs and symptoms

Low-grade fever, headache, pink eye, swollen lymph nodes, cough and runny nose.

Complications

Meningitis and bleeding problems.

Vaccine information

German measles is also included in the MMR vaccine. It’s especially important for women of childbearing years who do not have immunity against German measles

Cost estimation: R280 to R300 per dose

15.Chickenpox

A highly contagious viral infection that was, until recently, seen as a good disease for children to get.

Mode of transmission: Droplet infection and contact with the chickenpox blisters.

Signs and symptoms

Initially flu-like symptoms, with itchy, fluid-filled blisters developing all over the body.

Complications

Bacterial infection of the blisters, scarring, pneumonia, meningitis, bleeding problems and dehydration. It can cause death in high-risk groups like newborn babies and those with compromised immune systems.

Vaccine information

Chickenpox is far more severe in adults than children, and anyone beyond adolescence who hasn’t yet had the infection should consider immunisation. A dose is given from nine months of age with a possible booster at six years.

ALSO SEE: Chickenpox – more signs and symptoms

Cost estimation: R600 per dose

16.Mumps

A contagious viral infection of the salivary glands.

Mode of transmission: Droplet infection.

Signs and symptoms

Fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen and extremely painful salivary glands.

Complications

More common in adults than children. It includes meningitis, paralysis, hearing loss and infection of the testes, which may cause infertility.

Vaccine information

In South Africa, mumps is included in the mumps, measles and German measles (MMR) vaccine. The vaccine is given between 12 and 18 months of age with a booster at 4 to 6 years.

Cost estimation: R280 to R300 per dose.

 

*By Christine Klynhans, independent midwife

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