What can children be vaccinated against?
Prior to the widespread use of immunization, infectious diseases were the main cause of death among babies. The objective of the national immunisation schedule is to protect children and adolescents against these dangers. The best scientifically proven option for this is timely vaccination.
The state purchases all vaccines provided for in the immunisation schedule and ensures that the vaccines are available to people. With parental consent, newborn babies are vaccinated already at maternity hospitals, young children are vaccinated at family physician offices, and schoolchildren at health service providers at schools.
As a result of adequate vaccination, the population will develop collective immunity. This means that an infectious disease can no longer be transmitted due to a lack of vulnerable people. This way, we can prevent the suffering and deaths caused by illnesses and enable health care professionals to direct resources to solve other important problems.
The national immunisation schedule of Estonia contains vaccines for the following infectious diseases:
- Viral hepatitis B is extremely contagious and can cause chronic liver infection. The younger the person is at the time of contracting viral hepatitis B, the higher the likelihood that the disease will become chronic. Chronic viral hepatitis B can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer in the future.
- Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection that can take the form of pharyngitis, inflammation of the throat or nose. The disease is accompanied by fever, sore throat, enlargement of the neck lymph nodes and a swollen neck, the so-called bull neck. Diphtheria pathogens release a strong poison – diphtheria toxin, which is particularly damaging to the heart muscle. As a result of damage to the nervous system, paralysis of soft palate muscles develops, thereby causing problems with speech and swallowing. Paralysis may also affect muscles of respiration, which can lead to death.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib infection) causes suppurative meningitis (inflammation of brain membrane) in young children. Complications of Hib infection can include hearing loss or deafness, mental retardation and persistent cramping syndrome. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 3 million people contract Hib infection each year, and nearly 400,000 of them die as a result.
- Nearly 80% of people contract the human papilloma (HPV) virus during their lifetime. The most harmful HPV strains cause the majority of cervical cancer. In Estonia, morbidity and mortality of cervical cancer are one of the highest in Europe. In addition, HPV can cause cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus, penis and oral cavity.
- Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that manifests as an inflammation of the throat and eyes, and is accompanied by a characteristic rash. The most common complications of measles are pneumonia and middle ear infection (otitis media). A less common complication is inflammation of the brain, i.e. encephalitis, which can result in disability or death. There is no specific treatment for the disease, only symptoms can be alleviated.
- Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that occurs in the form of severe uncontrolled bouts of coughing. Complications of the disease may include pneumonia, seizures, brain damage due to oxygen deficit and apnoea, which can lead to death.
- Mumps manifests in a fever and painful swelling mostly in parotid salivary glands; the swelling can sometimes spread to other (submandibular and sublingual) salivary glands as well. In boys, inflammation can spread to the testicles, causing severe pain and swelling. Infertility may occur as a complication of inflammation of the testicles. The most severe form of the disease causes inflammation of brain membrane or of the brain. There is no specific treatment for mumps.
- Poliomyelitis, i.e. infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease, which may result in damage to the central nervous system, paralysis or, in more severe cases, death. Any muscles can be damaged, but more often muscles are damaged in the legs, less often in the arms, neck, and trunk. Polioviruses can also penetrate the cerebral cortex, resulting in swallowing, breathing and speech impairment.
- Rubella is an acute communicable disease. The disease is particularly dangerous for pregnant women. The earlier the pregnancy stage at the time of contact with the rubella virus, the more severe is the damage to the fetus. If the infection occurs during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, 90% of fetuses will develop congenital rubella syndrome. Such newborn child will be underweight, may have heart problems, deafness and several other health problems.
- Rotavirus infection is a viral intestinal disease. It is transmitted very easily and is the world’s most common intestinal disease among children. The disease begins with a fever, abdominal pain, vomiting and sudden watery diarrhoea. Infants can quickly become dangerously dehydrated, to an extent that requires hospital treatment.
- Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a bacterial infectious disease characterised by the occurrence of muscle cramps. The risk of tetanus occurs in the case of abrasions, cut and puncture wounds, splinters that puncture the skin, as well as bites from insects and animals. In less severe cases, the diseases is curable, in more severe cases, it can end in death.
- Tuberculosis is a widespread dangerous contagious disease, which primarily affects the lungs and the regional lymph nodes thereof, but may also affect other organs. Tuberculosis is treated with antibiotics and the treatment lasts 6–24 months. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated eight million people contract tuberculosis and two million people die of tuberculosis every year.
A complete overview of vaccine-preventable diseases can be found here.