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To your health: Vaccinations for children less than two years old

Update: July, 31/2017 - 10:00
Dr. Cynthia Dacanay.— Photo Courtesy of Family Medical Practice Vietnam
Viet Nam News

By Dr. Cynthia Dacanay*

The old adage, “Prevention is better than cure,” holds true today. There are 14 potentially serious diseases that can be prevented in children less than 2 years old with vaccines.

Following the recommended vaccination schedule ensures protection before the child is exposed to the disease. 

Vaccines contain weakened or killed antigens (substance of the bacteria or virus that causes disease), and hence they not pose a threat to the immune system.  These antigens are only a small portion of antigens that babies are continually exposed to everyday.

Listed below are the 14 vaccine-preventable diseases and the vaccines that prevent them. Almost all these diseases are transmitted via air and direct contact, and hence not easy to avoid without added protection.

Diphtheria  symptoms include fever, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes and body weakness. It can cause complications like heart failure, paralysis, coma and death.

Pertussis  manifests as severe cough, runny nose, breathing pauses (apnea),  and can later develop into pneumonia (lung infection), which could prove fatal.

Tetanus can be spread via exposure through cuts in the skin. Symptoms include neck and abdominal muscle stiffness, muscle spasm, lock jaw, and can later cause breathing difficulties and death.

The DTaP vaccine protects against these 3 diseases and is administered in 4 doses before the child turns 2, and one more dose at 4-6 years old.

Poliomyelitis  may initially manifest as fever, headache, nausea and sore throat which can later lead to paralysis and even death. This disease can be prevented by the IPV vaccine which is also administered in three doses before the baby is 2 months old, and another dose when he/she has grown to 4-6 years old.

Measles manifests as fever, rash, cough and colds with pink eye. It can lead to Pneumonia, encephalitis (brain swelling) and death.

Mumps manifests in several symptoms including swollen salivary glands, fever, muscle pain and easy fatigability. It can lead to complications like meningitis, encephalitis, deafness, and testicular and ovarian inflammation.

Rubella symptoms include fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes.  Complications in infected pregnant women may lead to stillbirth, birth defects or premature delivery.

The MMR vaccine protects against these 3 diseases. Two doses are given: one when the child is a year old, and another when he/she is between 4-6 years old.

Hepatitis B infection is spread via contact with body fluids including blood. It maybe asymptomatic or may show up as  fever, body weakness, vomiting, and yellowish discoloration of skin and eyes.  Chronic liver infection, liver failure and cancer may result from this infection. 

The HepB vaccine protects against this disease and the first dose ideally should be given at birth, the second dose a month later and the third dose 6 months later.

Hepatitis A has similar symptoms as Hepatitis B, but unlike the latter, is spread via intake of contaminated water or food or direct contact with an infected person. This may also lead to liver failure.  Prevented by HepA vaccine which may be given starting when the child a year old in 2 doses, 6-12 months apart.

Pneumococcal disease and Hemophilus influenza type B may both lead to Pneumonia, Meningitis, Sepsis and death. Protection against these two diseases is given by the PCV and Hib vaccine respectively. The vaccines are administered in four doses starting at 2 months old.

Varicella or Chickenpox manifests as vesicular rash with fever, easy fatigability and may lead to complications including skin infection, encephalitis and pneumonia. The Varicella vaccine prevents this disease and is given in 2 doses starting when the child turns one.

Rotavirus may present as diarrhea, fever and vomiting that can lead to severe dehydration and even death. The  RV vaccine protects against this disease which is given in 2-3 doses, and administered as early as 2 months.

Influenza or Flu has the symptoms of fever, sore-throat, cough/colds and severe tiredness.  This can lead to    pneumonia.  It is prevented by the seasonal Flu vaccine which can be given as early as 6 months, one dose annually (for children 8 years and older) and 2 doses, 1 month apart  (for previously unvaccinated children younger than 8 years old).

Missing a dose doesn’t mean you have to start all over again. Just consult with a doctor, catch up with your child’s vaccine schedule, and make suggested adjustments. — Family Medical Practice Vietnam

* Dr. Cynthia Dacanay is a pediatrician with Family Medical Practice Hanoi - a branch of Family Medical Practice Vietnam.

For more advice on any medical topic, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi on 298 I Kim Mã, Ba Đình, Tel: (024) 3843 0748 and

FMP’s downtown HCM City location is at Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn, District 1; Other facilities are at: 95 Thảo Điền Street, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848.

FMP Danang is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh Street, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E:

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