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Each year, over 1.4 million children die fr om diseases that are preventable with readily available vaccines. These diseases include measles, meningitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), yellow fever, polio and hepatitis B. New vaccines against other illnesses, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea caused by rotavirus, have been developed and are now more widely used.
Children who are immunised are protected fr om these dangerous diseases, which can often lead to disability or death. All children have the right to this protection. Every girl and boy needs to be fully immunised according to the national immunisation calendar. Early protection is critical. The immunisations in the child’s first year and into the second year are especially important.
It is also essential that pregnant women are immunised against tetanus to protect themselves as well as their newborns.
Although there has been progress in the past years in immunising children, in 2008 nearly 24 million children — almost 20 per cent of children born each year — did not recieve the routine immunisations scheduled for the first year of life. Parents or other caregivers need to know why immunisation is important, the recommended immunisation schedule, and wh ere their children can be immunised.
Key facts each family should know about immunisation:
- Immunisation is urgent. Every child should complete the recommended series of immunizations. Early protection is critical; the immunisations in the first year and into the second year are especially important. All parents or other caregivers should follow the advice of a trained health worker on when to complete the required immunisations;
- Immunisation protects against several dangerous diseases. A child who is not immunised is more likely to become sick, permanently disabled or undernourished, and could possibly die;
- It is safe to immunise a child who has a minor illness or a disability, or is malnourished;
- All pregnant women and their newborns need to be protected against tetanus. Even if a woman was immunised earlier, she needs to check with a trained health worker for advice on tetanus toxoid immunisation;
- A new syringe must be used for every person being immunised. People should demand a new syringe for every vaccination;
- Disease can spread quickly when people are crowded together. All children living in congested conditions, particularly in refugee or disaster situations, should be immunised immediately, especially against measles;
- The vaccination card of a child (or an adult) should be presented to the health worker before every immunisation.