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Children to get new jab.

Byline: MANDEEP SINGH

ALL 13-year-olds in Bahrain will receive a special dose of a combined diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) vaccine with immediate effect, it was announced yesterday.The vaccine is being administered to Bahraini and expatriate children, in all government and private schools.

"The DPT vaccine will replace the DP (diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine which is now given," said Health Ministry communicable diseases section head Dr Muna Al Mousawi.

"This makes Bahrain once again the first country in the Gulf and the Middle East to offer this vaccine, on the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO)".

She was speaking at a Press conference at the Public Health Directorate in Salmaniya.

Over the last two weeks, the ministry has announced a vaccination for rotavirus and a combined vaccination for protection from tetanus, diphtheria, polio, whooping cough and haemophilus influenza infections such as meningitis and pneumonia.

While the rotavirus vaccine will be give within a few days of birth, the other vaccines will be given three times within the child's first four months and will be followed by a booster after 15 months.

"Our bodies are designed with an intricate immune system to protect us from diseases," said Dr Al Mousawi.

"When possible, it is far better to work with the body's immune system, rather than to intervene with invasive procedures and toxic agents after a serious disease has already been contracted. That is what the vaccines do."

She said the concept behind immunisation is to expose children to a very small, very safe bit of the most dangerous diseases that they are likely to encounter at some point in their lives.

"This mild exposure helps their immune systems learn to recognise these entities, so that if they are exposed to the full-blown diseases later in life, they will either not become infected or have less serious infections. This is a preventive, natural way to deal with infectious diseases," said Dr Al Mousawi.

She said diphtheria was a very serious bacterial disease that can make a person unable to breathe, cause paralysis, or even heart failure.

"About 10 per cent of the people who get diphtheria die from it," said Dr Al Mousawi.

Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is extremely contagious, she added.

"Before widespread immunisation, virtually all children contracted whooping cough. Small children become more sick and adults may appear only to have a bad cold," said Dr Al Mousawi.

Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is caused by a bacterium that is common in the soil.

"When this germ gets into an open wound, an unprotected person can contract tetanus, which creates serious muscle spasms that can be strong enough to snap the spine. Even with modern medical care, about 30pc of the people who get tetanus die from the disease," she said.

Dr Al Mousawi said while the DPT vaccine has dramatically cut down the risks of disease and death among children, exposing them to even a very small amount of these serious infections can cause side-effects.

"Many children will have soreness, redness, and swelling at the injection site. Many will also have a fever, become fussy and drowsy, and have a decreased appetite for one to two days after the vaccination," she said.

Dr Al Mousawi said severe problems from the DPT immunisation happen very rarely.

"These include a serious allergic reaction, a prolonged seisure, reduced consciousness, lasting brain disease, or even death. These severe neurologic events occur after approximately one in 140,000 doses of the DPT vaccine (0.0007pc)," she said.

"Putting these risks into perspective, even if you assume the worst-case scenario - one in 140,000 - compared to all other preventive and natural health measures, DPT is very safe."

mandeep@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:May 1, 2008
Words:634
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