On the occasion of World Immunisation Week, held from 24 to 30 April 2015, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is encouraging women to be informed, and protect themselves and their children from vaccine-preventable diseases.

According to the US-based Centers for Communicable Diseases (CDC), vaccine-preventable diseases include cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis A & B, human papillomavirus (HPV), influenza, measles, meningococcal, tuberculosis, typhoid and yellow fever. Most of these diseases can be prevented if women get vaccinated and also stick to their children’s immunisation schedule right after their births.

The recommended immunisation schedule is designed to protect infants and children early in life, when they are most vulnerable and before they are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.

Senior Consultant Obstetrics/Gynecology at the Women’s Hospital, Dr Halima Al Tamimi, said:

In Qatar, the H1N1 vaccine is recommended for pregnant women with lower immune systems during the months of November to March. H1N1 vaccine protects against influenza (flu) disease caused by the H1N1 virus. It works by stimulating the body to produce antibodies against the influenza A (H1N1) flu virus, which helps the body to fight the infection.’

She explained that pregnant women who get sick with H1N1 can have serious health problems and they can get sicker than other people who get H1N1 flu. He said:

Some pregnant women who are sick with H1N1 have had early labor and severe pneumonia. Some have died. If you are pregnant and have symptoms of the flu, take it very seriously. Call your doctor right away for advice. The meningitis vaccine is recommended if a pregnant woman wants to go on a holy pilgrimage to Mecca because of the high concentration of people she would come in contact with on the trip.’

Also, she stated that the rubella vaccine is usually administered to females in secondary schools but noted that:

About 10% of girls in this category miss receiving this vital vaccine that protects against rubella (German measles), which is usually a mild illness but can cause serious damage to the unborn child of a pregnant woman. Usually, we advise women to get vaccinated against rubella six weeks after they deliver their babies. We also suggest avoiding getting pregnant three months after so there are no complications and fetal abnormalities.’

This year’s immunisation week signals a renewed global, regional, and national effort to accelerate action to increase awareness and demand for immunisation by communities, and improve vaccination delivery services. This year’s campaign focuses on closing the immunisation gap and reaching equity in immunisation levels as outlined in the Global Vaccine Action Plan, which is a framework to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through universal access to vaccines for people in all communities.

HMC’s General Pediatrics Division head, Dr Ahmad Hassan Al Hammadi,

The vaccines develop the defense system in the body (immunity) so that one is protected against diseases. Worldwide, vaccine preventable diseases are still the major cause of morbidity and mortality among children causing pneumonia, brain damage, choking, heart problems, paralysis, liver damage among others.’

He said that basic vaccines are given at an early age and each of them has a specific time for starting. Each of the vaccines has to be spaced by a defined interval to ensure their effectiveness. He said:

In Qatar, we are following World Health Organization’s vaccine schedule and in accordance with child’s age. A total of 12 different vaccines (Bacille Calmette-Guerin – BCG, Hepatitis B, Hexavalent, Pentavalent, Hepatitis B, Poliomyelitis and Haemophilus Influenza Type b, Rotavirus, Oral Polio, Pneumococcal, MMR, Varicella, Hepatitis A, Influenza and Meningococcal) are scheduled for children aged zero to 12 years to protect them against major life threatening diseases of childhood.’

According to Dr Al Hammadi, vaccines are administered to children in Qatar as below:

  • BCG and HBV0: given at birth.
  • 6-in-1 vaccine known as Hexavalent, usually given at two months. It protects against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), Hepatitis B, Polio and Haemophilus influenze type b disease (Hib).
  • Pentavalent vaccine almost same like Hexavalent given at two, four and six months.
  • MMRprotects against measles, mumps and rubella (new recommendation – two times at 12 and 18 months).
  • Hepatitis Bseries vaccine given at 24 months, 3-4 years, 4-6 years, 11-12 years.
  • Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine given at 12 months and 3-4 years.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine(given at two, four, six and 15 months) protects against pneumonia (chest infection), ear infections and meningitis (a brain infection).
  • Rotavirus vaccine (given at two and four months) protects infants against rotavirus, the most common cause of serious diarrhoea in babies and young children.
  • Meningococcal ACYW135 (given from two years) prevents four strains of the bacteria that cause Meningococcal disease: A, C, Y, and W-135.
  • Influenza vaccine is recommended for children starting from two years.