VACCINATING YOUR CHILD HELPS PROTECT THE WHOLE COMMUNITY
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