Many parents adhere to the recommended vaccine schedule for their children, but questions about vaccines may linger for some, making it challenging to find trustworthy answers.
Regular checkups with a doctor are essential for ensuring a child’s growth and development is on the right track. These visits are a valuable opportunity to discuss nutrition, behaviour and, most importantly, to ensure children receive the necessary vaccines to maintain their health. Keeping up with childhood vaccinations not only safeguards your child’s well-being but also helps prevent the resurgence of diseases and maintain community safety.
According to Dr Osama Elsayed Rezk Elassy, clinical assistant professor and head of the division at the Centre for Pediatrics and Neonatology, Thumbay University Hospital, recommended routine vaccines encompass measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), polio, varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis B. Dr Elassy explains, “These vaccines are typically administered during infancy and childhood, providing protection against common diseases.”
Optional vaccines, recommended after consulting with a paediatrician, include the meningococcal vaccine, given between the ages of one and two years. Dr Ashok Kumar Verma, Specialist in Paediatrics at Aster Clinic, RAK, stresses the importance of this vaccination, noting, “Meningococcal disease is life-threatening, making this vaccine vital.”
Other vaccines for this age group include typhoid, hepatitis A, and annual administration of the influenza vaccine starting at six months of age.
For children above five years, Dr Elassy recommends ensuring they receive the second dose of the chickenpox vaccine and at least one dose of the typhoid vaccine. Additionally, at the age of 10, they should receive a DT (diphtheria and tetanus) vaccine along with a hepatitis B booster. “At 12 years and above, it is recommended to administer the first dose of the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine, followed by the second dose six months later,” he advises. “Lastly, every ten years, children should receive a DT vaccine to maintain their protection.”
Growing mistrust has led to some parents delaying or even refusing to immunise their children, resulting in the resurgence of diseases like measles, whooping cough (pertussis), and mumps. Fear of vaccine side effects ranks as the top reason for vaccine refusal, partly fuelled by negative messages on social media.
To alleviate these fears, Dr Elassy assures that regulatory bodies in the UAE subject vaccines to rigorous testing, including preclinical research and multiple stages of clinical trials, to assess safety and effectiveness. Post-approval surveillance systems continuously monitor any adverse effects. “By providing evidence-based information, dispelling myths, discussing illness risks, and encouraging open communication, doctors and paediatricians can support parents,” Dr Elassy emphasises. “To ease parental concerns and promote well-informed decisions, it is essential to discuss potential side effects and underscore the importance of vaccines in maintaining public health.”
Dr Kumar concurs, emphasising that in the post-coronavirus pandemic era, vaccine safety is a paramount concern. He highlights that all vaccines undergo rigorous clinical trials in both animals and humans over more than a decade to assess their effectiveness and safety. “Vaccines for children have either no side effects or very minimal ones,” Dr Kumar notes. “Parents have the right to discuss all vaccination details with their paediatrician before making a decision.”