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WOR­RIES ABOUT CHEM­I­CALS Vac­cines are made up of anti­gens (a weak­ened, in­ac­tive form of the germ) and harm­less ad­ju­vants, such as alu­minium, which is a sub­stance that helps the body mount a good response. Mod­ern vac­cines con­tain thou­sands of times fewer anti­gens than those you prob­a­bly re­ceived as a child be­cause sci­ence has be­come bet­ter at iso­lat­ing dis­ease-caus­ing anti­gens. So you are be­ing vac­ci­nated against many dis­eases, but very ef­fi­ciently, with far fewer anti­gens than a nor­mal child en­coun­ters dur­ing a nor­mal day of play­ing. Some vac­cines don’t con­tain preser­va­tives, but the in­fluenza vac­cine con­tains small amounts of thimerosal. “It con­tains mi­nus­cule lev­els of ethylmer­cury, which should not be con­fused with methylmer­cury (the kind found in fish), which in large quan­ti­ties can have ad­verse ef­fects,” says Dr Suchard. Thimerosal is no longer used in any other vac­cine. Some par­ents worry about formalde­hyde, which is present in our body as part of our meta­bolic process, and the amount in vac­cines is so mi­nus­cule that it is harm­less.

vac­ci­nated. Chil­dren who are too young (be­low the age at which you can give a vac­cine) or chil­dren with spe­cific med­i­cal con­di­tions and com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems, such as leukaemia, can­not be vac­ci­nated. Dr Suchard also ex­plains vac­cines are not ef­fec­tive for ev­ery­one, so about five per­cent of the com­mu­nity are sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fec­tions even though they have been vac­ci­nated. “Vaccinatin­g your child helps pro­tect the whole com­mu­nity. It’s also crit­i­cal to have high vac­ci­na­tion lev­els as part of a co­or­di­nated global ef­fort to try to in­ter­rupt the trans­mis­sion of dan­ger­ous cir­cu­lat­ing viruses and bac­te­ria and to en­sure cov­er­age if there is an in­fected trav­eller who comes into the coun­try,” she says. A suc­cess story of global vac­ci­na­tion pro­grammes

Whether you de­cide to vac­ci­nate your child by fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment Road To Health card, or go to a pri­vate clinic, re­ally comes down to ques­tions of cost and con­ve­nience and what your time or bud­get al­lows. At a state clinic all the vac­cines on the De­part­ment of Health’s Ex­tended Pro­gramme on Im­mu­ni­sa­tion (EPI SA) are of­fered for free. The dis­ad­van­tage is that you can’t book an ap­point­ment so you may ex­pe­ri­ence long waits at the baby clinic. You also won’t get the “per­sonal touch” and fol­low-up con­tact you get from a pri­vate nurs­ing sis­ter. How­ever, you could al­ways con­tact the vac­cine helpline Amayeza on 0860 160 160 for ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion.

The ma­jor ben­e­fit of the EPI SA is that all the vac­cines are of­fered for free, whereas if you go to a pri­vate clinic you will have to pay for each vac­cine as well as an ad­di­tional con­sul­ta­tion fee, which can range from R100 to R300.

“In the past, at some of the pri­vate clin­ics you could also get some of the

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