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What pentavalent vaccine is and what it does for your baby

 Photo: Courtesy

The pentavalent vaccine is five individual vaccines conjugated in one and intended to actively protect your baby from five potentially deadly diseases: Haemophilus Influenza type B (the bacteria that causes meningitis, pneumonia and otitis media – ear infection), Whooping Cough (or Pertussis), Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Diphtheria.

Diphtheria is a respiratory disease that can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death. It’s highly contagious and is spread by coughing and sneezing. Tetanus, or lockjaw, is a disease caused by a bacterium often found in soil. Once it enters the body it releases a toxin that attacks the nervous system, causing muscle spasms and death if left untreated.

Pertussis, also highly contagious, causes severe coughing spasms in infants and may make it difficult to eat, drink, or even breathe. It can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and death. Haemophilus Influenza type B is a deadly bacterium which causes meningitis and pneumonia. It is considered the third biggest cause of vaccine-preventable death in children aged under five.

The majority of survivors suffer paralysis, deafness, mental retardation and learning disabilities following the meningitis it causes. Hepatitis B (Hep B) is a viral infection that is more than 50 times more infectious than HIV and causes chronic or acute live infections and increases risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer in later life.

Pentavalent vaccine combines five different vaccines in a single vial. It is a successor to the DTP vaccine, introduced to boost coverage of hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (HiB) vaccines by including them as part of routine immunization. Offering hepB and Hib vaccines as part of a five-in-one conjugate pentavalent vaccine doesn’t just improve coverage, it also means that just three shots are needed instead of the usual nine to provide the same cover from separate vaccines (three each for DTP, hepB and Hib vaccines).

The vaccine is given to babies at six, ten and 14 weeks of age. Tetanus in newborn infants is prevented if the mother has been immunized because an immune mother passes antibodies to the baby across the placenta. The mother is immune if she has been immunized before becoming pregnant or during pregnancy. An expectant mother whose tetanus immunization status is uncertain or whose last immunization was more than 10 years ago should be immunized against tetanus.

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