The debate when parents meet and chat up, face to face or on social media, will give the impression that issues of immunization cause anxiety when the issue is a question of management of pain. Some parents are unable to bear the sight of their little one going through the after affects of immunization like pain and fever. Many others can. The ultimate goal of either section of the parents is the well being of the child. So, what are the distinct advantages and disadvantages of either of the two methods of vaccinations to protect the baby?
A brief history will be helpful to understand the pain and its management and the effectiveness of the vaccine called DTP or treble antigen. DTP stands for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis ( whooping cough). DTP is one of the most basic vaccines administered to infants.
The so-called pain causing vaccine is made by inactivating the whooping cough organism to prepare the vaccine. It contains active components with many other components which may not be necessary for protection. This is why there is a reaction once the vaccine is administered. Sometime in the early 1970’s a paper was presented claiming that this vaccine causes some sort of a disabling neurological problem. This led to development of technology that reduced the reaction and came to be called as Acellular vaccine and the old one remained as the Wholecell vaccine. It got reflected as DTaP and DTwP – the “a” in the first stands for Acellular and the “w” for the Wholecell.
About two decades later, research proved there was no permanent damage of any kind to the human body. Most Western countries, however, did not shift from the pain-free vaccine. In late 2000, several states in the US reported resurgence of Pertussis or whooping cough. An analysis revealed the main factor was the very short duration of protection which the Acellular vaccine provided.
“Further studies have clearly shown that the Wholecell vaccine gave better and longer protection. It has been proven that DTwP may cause pain for a day or two but it is longer lasting and more effective. The pain and fever can be managed with very simple medicines like Crocin. And, certainly there is no fear of any kind of neurological damage,” Dr S G Kasi, a practising paediatrician in Bengaluru and a former member of the committee on immunization of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said.
It was after this global research and debate on the efficacy of the pain-free vaccines that a committee of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics in 2013 recommended DTwP or wholecell vaccine be used by paediatricians. But, despite this recommendation, some private practitioners in the urban areas do prefer to give Acellular or DTaP vaccine. This vaccine is not produced in India and since it is imported, it is costlier. Informatively, 95 per cent of Indian population is provided immunization by the government.
So, the bottom line for parents who are anxious is that please bear the pain because in the long run, a little pain is better for the future.