1. What is immunization?

Immunization is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine. Vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or disease.1

2. What does immunization do?

Immunization protects children against certain specific and serious diseases, which otherwise would lead to stress, worry and expense of having a child become very ill and possibly die from a disease that could be prevented by administration of a vaccine.

3. How and where a child can be immunized?

You can visit any government health facility, including hospitals, medical colleges, urban dispensaries, Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs), sub-centres and Anganwadi centres for getting your children vaccinated. In villages and some urban areas (like slums and mohallas), ANMs organize immunization sessions for providing immunization services to children.

The government health department has ensured that immunization services are available near you. It is important to understand that under National Immunization Schedule, vaccines are not provided house to house, except in special campaigns and drives like polio.

Please contact the ASHA in your village and/or ANM to get details of the immunization sessions being held near your area and ensure you take your children to the nearest immunization session to get them vaccinated as per the recommended schedule. Please remember to bring the MCP Card along, whenever you take your children for vaccination.

4. How much will vaccination cost to me?

Vaccines are costly and government spends a lot of money in procuring them, and storing and transporting them at correct temperature. However all immunization services including vaccines, syringes, Mother and Child Protection card and also medicines and supplements (Paracetamol, ORS, Zinc and Vitamin A) are given to all children free of cost, at the government health facilities.

Similarly, immunization services to pregnant women are also provided free of cost at the government health facilities.

5. What diseases do vaccines prevent?

In our country, under the UIP, vaccines are provided against 10 life threatening diseases i.e. Tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis, Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, RotaVirus, Pneumococcal Conjugate, Measles and Rubella. In few selected states and districts, vaccines are also provided against Haemophilus influenzae type B and Japanese Encephalitis.

6. Are there any side-effects?

For most children, there are no side effects from immunization. However, some children may experience mild pain, swelling and/or redness at the injection site which goes away within a few days. Serious side effects are rare. However, vaccines are continuously monitored for safety and like any medication, vaccine may cause side effects.

7. When to get the child immunized?

Immunization process starts when a child is in utero. Immunity developed from TT vaccine given to pregnant women passes to her child and protects from neonatal tetanus. Immunity against some infections, like measles, is transferred to child as passive immunity and protects from infection for some period after birth. Under National Immunization Schedule, BCG, OPV, and Hep B vaccines are given to child immediately after birth.

8. Why do healthy kids need to be immunized?

Vaccinations are intended to keep children healthy. Vaccines work by protecting them before disease strikes. If you wait until your child gets sick, it will be too late for the vaccines to work.

9. Now IPV is given along with OPV at 6 and 14 weeks. Is it safe to give two vaccines against the same disease together?

Yes. It is absolutely safe to give IPV and OPV together on the same day.

OPV is given orally, while IPV is given by injection. When both are used together, they ensure additional protection against polio infection.

10. If a child received IPV and OPV recently, should the child be given additional doses in the polio rounds?

Yes, during pulse polio campaigns, it is necessary that all children below 5 years should be given additional OPV doses.

11. What is IPV?

IPV refers to the Inactivated Poliovirus. IPV consists of inactivated (killed) poliovirus strains of all three poliovirus types and is given as injectable vaccine.

12. Is IPV Safe?

Yes, IPV is one of the safest vaccines. It protects children against all three types of poliovirus.

13. Will IPV Replace OPV?

No IPV (injection) will not replace OPV (polio drops). OPV will continue to be given as part of the routine immunization and polio rounds. IPV is to be administered in addition to the third dose of OPV in the same visit.

14. Since India is declared polio-free, why vaccination against polio is given to children in routine immunization as well as during pulse polio campaigns?

Even though India has been declared polio-free, polio infection is still present in some countries. There is a constant risk of an infected person traveling into India and spreading polio infection. Therefore, it is important to vaccinate children and keep their protection level high till polio virus is finished from the world.

15. What is pentavalent vaccine and why is it beneficial for my child?

Pentavalent vaccine has been introduced recently in the national immunization schedule. A single vaccine provides protection to children against five serious diseases viz. Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Haemophilus Influenza Type B infections (leading to pneumonia and brain fever) and Hepatitis B. Three doses of this vaccine are given to the child at 6, 10, 14 weeks.

16. Why is a vaccine against rubella being introduced into UIP?

Rubella is a viral disease, and its infection during pregnancy can cause abortion or stillbirth and may also lead to multiple birth defects in the new-born (like blindness, deafness, heart defects, development delays, and many other lifelong disabilities). Rubella vaccines have been in use in private sector for a long time. Now, Rubella vaccine is being introduced in UIP as Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccine to prevent rubella infection in children and young adults.

MR vaccination campaign is a special campaign to vaccinate all children in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years with one additional dose of MR vaccine. This campaign will ensure that majority of children are immunized against Measles and Rubella which will stop the transmission of this deadly disease from one person to another. Once the transmission of Measles and Rubella is controlled, the pregnant women will not be infected from these diseases.

17. Is MR vaccine used during the campaigns safe for children?

Yes. MR vaccine used during MR campaigns as well as in routine immunization has been proven to be highly safe and effective. This vaccine is WHO pre-qualified, is manufactured in India, and is being used in several other neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar.

18. How effective is the Rotavirus vaccine?

Rotavirus vaccine is very effective in preventing rotavirus diarrhoea. The available vaccines are observed to prevent severe rotavirus diarrhoea by 54-60%. The vaccine also provides herd immunity to unvaccinated older children and adults, by reducing the overall disease in the community. It is estimated that rotavirus vaccination in India could prevent 41,000 to 48,000 deaths in children under five years.

19. Will vaccination with Rotavirus vaccine prevent all diarrhoeas?

No. Diarrhoea is caused by many organisms. Rotavirus vaccine is effective in preventing diarrhoea due to Rotavirus only, which is one of the major causes of diarrhoea in children. So the child may still get diarrhoea due to other germs even after receiving Rotavirus vaccine.It has been estimated that rotavirus vaccination in India can prevent 41,000 to 48,000 deaths of children under 5 years of age.

20. How safe are rotavirus vaccines? Are there any side effects?

The Rotavirus vaccine is a safe vaccine. However, mild and transient symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, cough, runny nose, fever, irritability and rash may be associated with rotavirus vaccination. All rotavirus vaccines globally have been associated with a rare side effect; a slight increase in the risk of intussusception (one part of bowel folding into another). In many cases, this condition resolves by itself. In other cases, it can be managed with appropriate medical treatment. Evidence and analysis show that the benefits of Rotavirus vaccination far outweigh the risks. The risk of side effects after rotavirus vaccination is much lower than the risk of severe rotavirus disease in unvaccinated children. It is important to know that Intussusception also occurs in children without rotavirus vaccine.

21. What is pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)?

PCV is made up of sugars (polysaccharides) from the capsule of the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae that are attached (or conjugated) to a carrier protein. PCV protects young children starting at 6 weeks of age when infants are most at risk of disease. The vaccine protects against severe forms of pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia, meningitis and bacteraemia. It will not protect against these conditions if they are caused by agents other than pneumococcus or by pneumococcal serotypes not present in the vaccine

22. Is PCV a new vaccine?

  • No, PCV is not a new vaccine. 139 countries are using PCV vaccine in the national immunization program.
  • The first PCV was a 7-valent vaccine (PCV7) first introduced in the United States in 2000, followed by many other countries.
  • PCV7 was phased out with the licensure of PCV13. PCV10 became licensed around the same time.
  • In India, in the private sector, PCV7 was introduced in 2006, and continues to use PCV vaccine in various combinations.

23. Why is PCV being introduced in India?

PCV has been deemed essential to reduce disease burden and mortality in children under five due to pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease is the number one vaccine-preventable cause of death in children under five, globally and in India. The NTAGI has recommended introduction of PCV in UIP in India based on disease burden data, safety and efficacy, cost-effectiveness, sustainability and global evidence.

24. What is the vaccination schedule for PCV?

PCV will be given in three doses (2 primary doses and 1 booster) at 6 weeks, 14 weeks and 9 months of age.

25. Is PCV safe?

Yes, PCVs are considered safe in all target groups for vaccination, including immune compromised individuals. The Indian National Regulatory Authority has reviewed available safety data and has approved its use in Indian children. PCV10 and 13 have also been introduced into the routine systems of more than 100 other countries since 2010 without any safety concerns. Multiple studies have shown that PCV can be given safely and effectively along with other routine vaccines.

26. Does PCV have any side effects?

PCV is safe and well-accepted; severe adverse reactions attributable to the vaccine are extremely rare. Mild side effects such as pain at the injection site, and fever has been reported in less than 5% of vaccines. A single dose of paracetamol may be given if the child develops fever.