Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. All reasonable care has been taken in compiling the information but there is no legal warranty made to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Dr Michelle Wright or HealthFirst is not responsible or liable, directly or indirectly, for any form of damages whatsoever resulting from the use of the information contained or implied in this article.
Since Edward Jenner successfully vaccinated against smallpox in 1796, vaccinations have become medicine’s best way to safely protect your child from a multitude of infectious diseases and their possible complications.
Vaccinations work by injecting a small dose of an inactive form of a bacteria or virus, or a toxin that it produces. This injection won’t lead to infection or symptoms but it will allow the person’s body to make antibodies and develop an immune reaction against that infection. If the person is exposed to that bacteria or virus in the future, their body ‘remembers’ the germ that they were vaccinated against and their antibodies and immune cells are launched to fight it off. Thus infection is prevented from taking hold. Over the years, vaccinations have undoubtedly saved countless lives and the human body generally reacts very well towards them. They are only recommended when the benefits of protection against an infection and its complications significantly outweigh the potential side effects.
When thinking about vaccinations, it’s also important to consider the concept of herd immunity. This is a form of immunity when vaccination of a significant proportion of a population (a herd) provides a degree of protection for those people who are not immune to an infection because they are unable to be vaccinated – for example children who are too young, people with immune deficiency problems or people too unwell to receive vaccines. If a high percentage of a population is vaccinated, it makes it very difficult for that germ to spread because there are so few susceptible people left for it to infect. On the contrary, when herd immunity isn’t sufficient, then outbreaks of infection can occur and children and adults may die unnecessarily.
The evidence for herd immunity can be demonstrated by the successful eradication of smallpox worldwide and the eradication of polio in many regions. Through the concept of herd immunity,
by vaccinating your child, you are not only protecting them but you are also helping to protect the whole population.
Vaccination in Switzerland
In Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health regularly updates their vaccination recommendations after consultation with the Federal Commission for Vaccination, and in collaboration with Swissmedic (the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products). Any new available vaccines, any updates on vaccine safety and efficacy, any changes in disease outbreaks and any updates to vaccination guidelines by the World Health Organisation are all taken into consideration.
It is currently recommended that babies and children have basic vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis and laryngitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (German measles). Pneumococcal and meningococcal group C vaccination is also recommended if parents would like to protect their children against these infections that can lead to rare but potentially fatal illnesses including meningitis. Compulsory health insurance covers the cost of these vaccinations, except for any deductibles and retention fees.
During the teenage years, vaccination against hepatitis B, chickenpox (if the adolescent has not already been infected when younger) and the human papillomavirus (responsible for the majority of cervical cancers) is recommended. Booster doses of some of the earlier childhood vaccinations are also advised. If you have recently moved from another country, it’s worth finding your child’s vaccination card and comparing what vaccines they have already received to those recommended here in Switzerland. You can view the full Swiss Vaccination Schedule here in French, German and Italian.
Who to contact
If you have any questions, or if you think your child is missing any vaccinations, then visit your paediatrician who will be able to advise you further. There is also a telephone helpline in Switzerland for vaccination advice: 0844 448 448. The consultation is free but you will need to pay the call charges.
Or you can consult www.infovac.ch for further information.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Michelle Wright is a British-trained General Practitioner and Executive Director of HealthFirst, providing dynamic First Aid Training and Health Education in English throughout Switzerland (www.healthfirst.ch). She also has a regular radio show about health on World Radio Switzerland (www.worldradio.ch/healthmatters)
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