BABY AND CHILDHOOD INFECTIOUS DISEASES: IMMUNIZATION AFTER CHILDHOOD

‘Are schoolgirls still given rubella vaccines?’ Jane asked.

‘They certainly are. It’s offered to any girl between the age of 12 and 14 years, usually soon after they enter secondary school. Again, a single injection is given, and this appears to give adequate immunity. Medical practitioners may also immunize girls and women in the childbearing years. However, it is advised that it shouldn’t be given to pregnant women or to any woman who may become pregnant within two months of immunization. But it’s available again to women in maternity hospitals immediately after they have been confined if they haven’t already been immunized.’

‘How about smallpox vaccine? Is that a dead topic, or still alive?’

‘It is now believed that smallpox, once a terrible killer, may have been virtually eliminated from the face of the globe. Many countries have relaxed their laws requiring vaccination. But a few are still holding on, and it is now only recommended for persons travelling to countries that specifically insist on vaccination.’

‘What about booster shots and all that? The story seems to be a never-ending one,’ Jane said.

‘It is certainly advisable to maintain immunity to those diseases which could continue to pose a threat,’ I answered. ‘For that reason, health commissions suggest that diphtheria and tetanus immunization be repeated at certain intervals—certainly tetanus should be reinforced every five to ten years, and definitely if a potentially infective wound is sustained. It’s better to be sure than sorry.’

‘Are there any others I should know about?’

‘Not really. Of course, if Sarah plans to visit various overseas lands when she grows up, protection against such diseases as malaria, typhoid, cholera and perhaps hepatitis are worth thinking about. We get reports of about 260 cases of malaria each year in Australia from overseas travellers—it is still a major killer disease in other lands.

‘However, let us now concentrate on the potential troublemakers that are knocking at Sarah’s front door,’ I said, pulling out my ball point pen and prescription pad. ‘Supplies for Sarah’s immunization still have to be obtained, for I prefer to use a fresh batch for every patient.’

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