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Childhood Immunizations

Childhood immunization is a major focus of Paediatrics practice.

Though adults also can be immunized, it is often voluntary or required for travel purposes.

However, in children, it is like a law. Indeed in most places, it is a punishable offence not to immunize your child.

Of course, parents always have lots and I mean lots of questions on immunization.

In fact, if you are going to be waken up from your beauty sleep as a Paediatrician by a new mum, apart from issues of colic, I think immunization comes a close second as the reason to.

Immunization is important! Immunization is life-saving! Childhood immunization is one of the most cost-effective public health initiatives ever!!!

In this article, I will explain briefly what immunization is, the benefits of childhood immunizations   the commonly available vaccines and the diseases they protect against.

What is immunization?

Immunization is the process by which an individual’s immune system becomes fortified or strengthened through the use of vaccines against some diseases.

What is Vaccination?

VACCINATION is the administration of vaccines to prevent specific diseases.

What is a Vaccine?

A vaccine is a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or part of living fully virulent organisms that is administered to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease.

Is there a difference between Immunization and Vaccination?

Vaccination means the vaccine was given but the body immune system needs to respond appropriately for your child to be protected against the disease.

If a child gets the vaccine but his or her immune system for one reason or the other did not react by producing the antibodies that will protect you when you are exposed to the disease, you have only been vaccinated but not immunized.

Vaccination is necessary to have immunization. However, not every vaccination automatically leads to immunization.

This is very important as sometimes the vaccines given were not potent because there is a break in the cold chain to preserve it.

It could also be poor administration for example giving the BCG vaccine into the muscle instead of the skin. In those scenarios, the child has been vaccinated but not immunized. Sometimes, it is just some cross-reaction in the body system.

This may explain one of the questions Mums ask why their child still came down with a disease s/he has been immunized against. The child could have been vaccinated alright but not immunized.

Why should I immunize my child?

  • Immunization prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths every year in all age groups from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps and rubella.

  • An estimated 1.7 million children died from vaccine-preventable diseases in 2008 before reaching their fifth birthday.

  • Due to polio eradication efforts, over 8 million people are walking today who would otherwise be paralysed, and the incidence of polio has declined by 99.8%.

  • In Nigeria, for one year now, we have not recorded any single polio case.

  • Immunization prevents debilitating illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases.

  • Immunization is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions.

  • Vaccines have the power not only to save but also to transform lives ― giving children a chance to grow up healthy, go to school and improve their life prospect.

What are the available vaccines and what diseases do they protect against?

BCG – protects against Tuberculosis

Meningococcal vaccine (MCV) – protects against meningococcal disease.

Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine – protects against Hepatitis B virus infection.

Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) OR Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) – protect against poliomyelitis.

DPT Vaccine–  This protects against diphtheria (D), tetanus (T), and pertussis (P) (whooping cough).

Hib Vaccine – protect againsts Haemophilus influenzae type bwhich causes spinal meningitis and other serious infections).

In Nigeria we now give DPT, HBV and HIB together as one vaccine called PENTA (means 5 vaccines in one preparation)

Measles Vaccine – protects against measles.

MMR (Measles, Mumps Rubella) vaccine – protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).

Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)  – protect against pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis.

Another form of pneumococcal vaccine, PPSV (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) is used in special conditions and in adults.

Varicella Vaccine – protects against chickenpox.

Rotavirus Vaccine – prevents infections caused by Rotavirus, most common viral cause of diarrhoea and vomiting in kids (RotaTeq or Rotarix)

Hepatitis A Vaccine – protects against Hepatitis A virus infection.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine – protects from Human Papilloma virus infection which is linked to cervical cancer and other cancers.

Seasonal influenza vaccine –  protects against different flu viruses.

These are the common vaccines available for children and the various diseases they protect against. The schedule (or timing) for giving these vaccines vary from one country to another.

Indeed it can vary from one hospital to another in the same country. The most important thing is to ensure that as parents, you take all the vaccines at the time specified in your Immunization Card or Chart. The one shared above is just a sample.

For the answers to commonly asked questions on childhood immunizations, click here to read answers to Common Questions on Childhood Immunizations.

You can also let me know your thoughts by dropping your comments below. More importantly, ensure that all your children are fully immunized so they are protected against the vaccine-preventable-diseases.


  1. Thanks for the information on how vaccines need to be the right potency and properly administered in order for children to become immune. Since this is the case, it would probably be important to find the right doctor or pharmacists to administer the vaccine. You’d probably be able to do this by finding out which options are available in your area and check to make sure they offer the kind you’re looking for so you can get the right immunizations for your child.

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      Thank you Tiffany for your comment. All Government Hospitals are equipped to give vaccines and most private hospitals do as well.

  2. Jumoke Akande says:

    Thanks so much doctor. Please my baby is 1 year 3 months old, we missed the 12-15 months immunization. What can be done, then, is it compulsory one takes these vaccines from same hospital or health center?

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      You can always catch up on missed vaccines. You can take it anywhere the vaccines are available, not necessarily the same centre. That is why you keep your immunization cards/records so the vaccines can be documented in the card irrespective of the centres or hospitals where they are received. Read more about Catch up immunization here

  3. Temmy says:

    Hi Doc.
    Thanks for this information.
    I like to ask if my 5 months old baby can still get Rota vaccine. He wasn’t given then because we were told it wasn’t available in the hosp. His next is 1st dose of vit A next month. Hope we can still catchup for Rota now. Thanks

  4. Temmy says:

    Hello Doctor
    I appreciate the good work you do on #ATP. God bless you.
    My 5 months old son got his first dose of Rotrix vaccine yest. hope its not too late for the catch up and are there side effects for this cos his poo has been somehow watery since yest. he poos 4 times daily but hes quite active feeding and playing well. should i be worried for dyhoarria/dysentary?

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      Hi Temmy! I don’t think you have to worry. Yes it is a little late for the first dose of Rotarix according to recommendations. However, I don’t think you need to worry. If the stools are watery, please give him ORS and oral Zinc. Read more about home treatment of diarrhoea here

  5. Temilola says:

    Good evening doctor, my baby of 11 months took his vaccines in a government hospital. He wasn’t given a rota virus and we were also told d last vaccines he would take at the hospital were the ones he took at 9 months. I later learnt about mmr at one year and I was told it costs 36k in Benin. My question now is that why don’t the government hospitals take this or isnt it compulsory? Thanks, looking forward to your response

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      Vaccines are quite expensive even the ones you took for free. Those you were given were the ones that the government can afford to give you for free. However, there are plans to add the rest of the vaccines that are available not yet on the National Programme to it in the nearest future. Meanwhile you just have to pay for them. Read more about the Non-NPI vaccines here in a related article

    • Temmy says:

      Thanks so much Doctor. Pity i saw the reply late but he’s ok now. pls can i go ahead with the 2nd dose of rotrix which is slated for the end of the month when is already 6 months since we ve taken the first dose and are there side effects for taking the first dose very late?

      • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

        You can if you wish….There are no harms but the period targeted for prevention is age 6 – 11 months and that is why the vaccines should have been taken earlier. It does no harm more like a waste really. However, I leave that to you to decide.

  6. Ashley Turns says:

    Thank you so much for letting me know that immunization prevents somewhere between 2 and 3 million deaths a year. I have been debating whether I want to give my son any immunizations and thought I would look up some of the statistics. Now that I know these shots have prevented at least 2 million deaths, I will definitely give them to my son.

  7. Lola Auta says:

    Good day ma, please ma I just noticed that my 2years old baby start developing k leg and she was not born like that am very worried pls what should I do thank you.

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      Hi Lola…there are some kinds of K-leg that is still normal in that age while there are others that suggest disease conditions like rickets. I will advise that you take your baby to a Paediatrician or Orthopaedic surgeon for proper evaluation first and you can be advised further. All the best!

  8. Dan Moller says:

    Immunization has been saving lives since it was used in 1796 and it is only prudent of a parent to have their children vaccinated for the common but deadly diseases out there. My mother has always reminded me the importance of getting vaccinated by telling me the story of how his uncle died of Spanish influenza. It is our responsibility as a parent to give our children the best care and the best chance to have future and immunization through vaccination is one of the keys to achieving that.

  9. Efe says:

    Hello Doctor, thanks for the info on immunization.
    My son was immunized on 11/11/2017. And 2days ago i noticed some rash on his thighs…this has spread to every part of his both legs. The rash ia not on his body…just on his legs. Is this normal? Is he reacting to any of the vaccine he was given? Should i b woŕried?

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      Hello! You did not specify the specific vaccine he was immunized with and how old your child is. It is very unlikely to be a vaccine reaction as that should involve the entire body. It is important that you take him to see a doctor for further evaluation to know the type and cause of the rash so appropriate treatment can be given as well.

  10. Damilola Asade says:

    Good evening doctor, please my baby is 3 months. I noticed mucus coming from the scar of the bcg immunisation today (upper left arm). Please should I be worried, what could have caused that to happen. Thank you.

    • Dr Gbemisola Boyede says:

      Do you mean pus? Just watch for now if the wound will heal spontaneously but if not you may want to see your Paediatrician for further treatment

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