* Rotavirus vaccine, the current product is Rotarix
Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine and pneumococcal disease protects against severe life threatening diseases caused by a bacterium streptococcus pneumoniae, also known as pneumococcus. The group of conditions caused by this bacterium also referred to as pneumococcal disease are very common and can be very serious.
The severe conditions known as invasive pneumococcal disease are: pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia/ bacteraemia. Pneumonia affects the chest and the ability to give oxygen to our bodies, meningitis affects the brain, spinal cord and related structures and septicaemia refers to a condition where bacteria multiply in the blood stream.
The disease has serious consequences, as many will suffer severe complications like deafness, brain damage and some die. The outcome is particularly poor for those who do not get treatment.
Diseases caused by pneumococcus affect all people, but children and particularly those below the age of two years are at high. Also at high risk are: the elderly, those with a weak immune system including the HIV infected and those with cancer, those with an underlying illness. Children at day care centres like crèches and preschools are more exposed.
How can you prevent this disease?
A vaccine for immunization is now available to protect children from this deadly disease. The vaccine, Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine–seven valent is available free of charge at public health facilities around the country. It is given at six weeks, 14 weeks and nine months.
Who is to receive the Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine?
The vaccine was introduced on the first of April 2009 countrywide.
Who will benefit?
All South Africans will benefit from the introduction of PCV 7. Although the vaccine is for young children, the protection from this vaccine is for the whole population. This is because the vaccine will decrease the amount of disease among children who generally (even when they are healthy) carry the disease and infect others particularly the elderly and adults who are immuno-compromised, like those who have an HIV infection; all of whom are at risk of pneumococcal disease.
Rotavirus disease and Rotavirus vaccine
Rotavirus infection causes diarrhea. Diarrhea caused by rotavirus can be quite serious, particularly in resource poor settings leading to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and death. This is the main problem in developing countries, as infected children may not reach hospital in time and thus are more likely to succumb to the disease.
Who is at risk?
All children below the age of five years in all countries and settings are at risk. By the time children are five years old, practically all of them have had at least one rotavirus infection. The disease is most severe in children below one year and in resource poor settings.
How to prevent rotavirus diarrhea?
Immunization with rotavirus vaccine will prevent severe forms of the disease and prevent deaths. Good hygiene practices may help, however the condition is common even in settings with excellent hygiene standards.
Antibiotics have no effect on the infection. Treatment is mainly supportive by ensuring re-hydration and electrolytes replacement.
Pentavalent vaccine-DTaP-IPV/Hib (Pentaxim)
This vaccine is a combination vaccine with five (penta) components (antigens). Therefore it protects against five conditions: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, haemophilus influenzae and polio. The new vaccine replaces an older combination of four antigens (a tetravalent), which is called Combact-Hib.
The advantage of this vaccine lies in the Acellular Pertussis (aP) vaccine and the Injectable Polio vaccine (IPV). aP vaccine is more advanced than the whole cell Pertussis vaccine currently used. It causes less side effects. Similarly the Injectable Polio vaccine has no risk of causing vaccine associated paralysis, which is the main risk with oral polio vaccine currently used. Both new antigens (aP and IPV) are widely used in developed countries.
Pentaxim will protect against these conditions:
* Diphtheria, a condition that presents with a thick infected membrane on the throat, which causes difficulty in breathing and swallowing
* Pertussis, whooping cough; a highly infectious disease which presents with severe bouts of cough associated with a characteristic sound (a whoop) at the end of the cough attack made by gasping for air
* Tetanus, locked jaw; presents with a fit like attack associated with a hyper-extended neck, locked jaw; a large majority of those infected die
* Haemophilus influenzae, causes pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia (similar to pneumococcus)
* Polio, paralysis or weakness of any limb or limbs at times associated with paralysis of breathing muscles
How to prevent these conditions?
All these highly infectious conditions can be prevented with a five in one vaccine, Pentaxim.
Who should be immunized?
All children are to be vaccinated with the Pentavalent vaccine (Pentaxim) at six, 10, 14 weeks and at 18 months.
Children who have already received some doses of the older product (Combact Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)) can be safely given Pentaxim to complete the schedule. The two are interchangeable.
Who Will Benefit?
The vaccine will prevent the five conditions in the most vulnerable group, the children. However, all South Africans will benefit from this vaccine as diseases are prevented and there is decreased circulation of these organisms which affect older age groups as well.
* Immunization is free in all public health facilities in this country, including the new vaccines.
* Immunization prevents more than three million deaths a year and will prevent even more as more and more children are protected with new vaccines.
* HIV infected children who do not have Aids should be vaccinated. They need protection more than HIV uninfected children.
Children have a right to protection against vaccine preventable diseases. You have a responsibility to ensure that this right and protection is realised!
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