By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A Consultant Paediatrician with interest in Respiratory and Paediatrics, Dr Bamigboye Olatomi, has disclosed that the best and cheapest way to prevent diseases especially among children is simply by immunisation.
In an interview with the media, including Business Post in Lagos last week, Dr Olatomi, who is also the Medical Director of Lagoon Hospital in Lagos, listed the benefits of getting children vaccinated against diseases.
Speaking on an infection of the lungs, Pneumonia, the medical expert said when a child is vaccinated, the immune system is strengthened to fight against any disease or infection.
“When we give a vaccine, what we want the body to do is to produce antibodies, which are of two types, antigens and antibodies.
“What the antibodies do is to mop up those antigens in your system so that they cannot cause an infection.
“So what vaccines actually do is to strengthen the immune system by giving antibodies the power to fight infections,” she said.
Dr Olatomi defined vaccination as a process in which a substance is injected into the body of an individual to resist an infection.
She said this substance usually contains proteins from some of the bacteria that causes this infection or are engineered bio-medically.
According to her, when these vaccines are given to an individual, they are expected to create a solitude of that infection in the individual, making the taker unable to have an active infection such that the body can respond by producing antibodies against such substances.
Speaking on who is more prone to pneumonia between children and adults, Dr Olatomi said, “Pneumonia is caused by a lot of organisms and not just the pneumococcal bacteria that is the strand.
“Both the young and old are prone to pneumonia. Also, people with sickle cell, asthma, those with renal issues or anyone with a chronic illness are prone to the disease.
In addition, she said those who have reason to remove the spleen, an organ in the abdomen, which helps to fight that infection, are prone to pneumonia and must take pneumococcal shots.
On the vaccines for pneumonia, Dr Olatomi said one is not vaccinated against the disease once in a lifetime and that the doses depend on the age of the receiver.
“For now, we have the national programme on immunization in the country and the pneumococcal vaccine has already been added to the routine vaccines given to children and they have the number of doses they are expected to take.
“Children have three doses and a shot might be enough for adults, but those with other chronic illnesses might need an extra shot to build immunity. So, the number of doses is age dependent and it also depends on some medical condition.
On the risk of not being vaccinated against pneumonia, the medical expert said, failure to be immunised is associated with increased morbidity, which she said is one of the contributors to the under-five mortality.
“When a child is not vaccinated against the disease, he would be exposed to the infection then you will not be able to mount an immune response to fight the infection.
“If you don’t have the vaccine, it usually predisposes you to invasive pneumococcal disease such that you have a very severe form of the disease, which can lead to a lot of things like increased hospitalisation of the child, loss of school days for adults, loss of economic man hours. Also, it has an effect on the economy, school attendance, increased spending on health.
Dr Olatomi then advised government to improve pneumococcal vaccination rates in Nigeria, saying when “you give the immunization, you have less children coming down with the invasive pneumococcal disease and so our spending on health will be reduced.
“The under-five mortality will drop and absenteeism in schools will reduce because when a child is admitted, a parent has to stay with the child in the hospital. The parent has to also run around, making such parent unable to be involved in economic activities.
“Immunization is the cheapest form of intervention you can make to avert preventable diseases in general. It is the cheapest form, the cost of immunization is far lower than the cost of having to treat a child or an individual suffering from vaccine preventable diseases.
Dr Olatomi, who spoke on this year’s World Pneumonia Day celebrated globally on the November 12, of every year, stated that in the national programme, “We give the BCG, which is for tuberculosis. We have what we call the pentavalent vaccine, the vaccine has for dysteria, has for whooping cough, it has the one for tetanus, it has the one for hepatitis and it has the one for influenza bacteria and we have the pneumococcal vaccines, which have three shots.
“The BCG is given at birth and we have the oral polio and we also have the injectable polio vaccines and then those are taken at birth.
“The BCG, the oral polio and the hepatitis B are mainly to prevent the transmission of disease from the mother to the child.
“When the child is 9 months old, we give measles and yellow fever vaccines; that is the immunization for the National Programme.
“However, there are a lot of other vaccines that are available, which we can avail ourselves, including the rotavirus, which is not yet in the programme. It is available to be taken.
“We have the meningitis vaccine, and a host of others for the adult. There is also the chicken pox vaccine.
“We mostly emphasise that these vaccines are given from childhood and this is because when you give a child a healthy start in life, it helps them later in life.”
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