Be Aware of the Less Painful Vaccine Available For Your Child

by - May 13, 2020

I had an interesting conversation recently with a couple who had just become parents to their second child. While they were better prepared this time around after the experience of raising their first child, their smiles did dim when it came to the memories of one aspect – visiting the doctor for the vaccinations.

The oral polio drops were fine, they explained, but the DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccine their first child received was invariably associated with severe pain, redness at the injection site and a high fever that the parents found very distressing. Add to this the fact that, as per the immunization schedule we follow, every child needs three DPT shots in the first year of life alone followed by two more boosters ideally before the age of six years. 

As educated as they were, having to watch their first child develop fever and wail for over 24 hours after the injection three times did make them ask me a shocking question – ‘Was there any problem if we don’t give the DPT vaccine boosters? After all, we gave 3 shots till now, didn’t we?’

mother kissing her baby

I understand how distressing it is to watch your baby be in pain and feel helpless. But believe me, these vaccines are a godsend that has changed the survival rates of these young babies dramatically since their introduction in the 1950s. Even with the availability of these vaccines, every year, there are nearly 16 million cases of pertussis with over 195,000 deaths across the world. This is especially distressing because pertussis – or whooping cough, as it also known – is highly contagious. Children who are not vaccinated are at 13 times higher risk of getting pertussis while those who have been under-vaccinated (have not received all their boosters) are at twice as high a risk than those fully immunized.

A Less painful Vaccine 

So there is no alternative but to let our children suffer through it all again, the new parents asked sorrowfully. Not quite, I replied.  You see, I explained, the key component in the DPT vaccine causing the pain is the ‘P’ in DPT – the Pertussis component. The newer vaccines – the acellular pertussis vaccine (DaPT) varies from the traditional one their first baby – and you and I decades ago – received in that the latter contains killed whole cells (DwPT) of the bacterium causing pertussis. In contrast, DaPT does not have cells of the bacterium at all but can trigger the child’s body to create the necessary antibodies as a defense mechanism. 

Common side-effects like a fever or swelling at the site of the injection in the first 72 hours after injection are less likely here with the DaPT. Thus, while the needle prick is undoubtedly still distressing for the baby, the new vaccine has earned its moniker as ‘the less painful vaccine’ for doing away with the negative side effects of the previous version. 

The parents raised another interesting query that night - But the first child would have to continue getting the original painful vaccine for the booster doses, right? 

Again, no. The less painful DaPT can be used for booster doses even after the painful DwPT was given the first time around. It can be given to any baby who develops adverse reactions following a DwPT vaccination and is in fact preferred, if there is a history of neurological disease in the child. 

The less painful vaccine remains equally efficacious in the initial years after vaccination. 

The key with vaccines like DaPT and DwPT is in strictly following the schedule and not letting sentiments cause you to miss the booster doses (as this couple had been considering) because the immunity will start to wane after a few years, leaving the child and those with weakened immunity around them like elders extremely vulnerable to new outbreaks of pertussis.
Taking advantage of a less painful vaccine makes total sense. Choosing not to complete a vaccination course because of lack of awareness of what is available can have disastrous consequences. The last thing we need in these trying times of resurgent viruses and bacterium are more outbreaks. 

What’s #YourCareQuotient? How much do you understand your child when it comes to sleep patterns, feeding and vaccination? Take the easy, interactive quiz that guides you and get the childcare guide now.

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  1. Such a helpful post, Roshan! I remember going through the same rollercoaster of emotions when my son was little. And was very grateful for the doctors who guided us through it.

    1. Knowledge about painless vaccines can be crucial especially with parents who wonder whether they should give their child the booster doses at all

  2. Helpful one! Sharing now.

    1. Thanks. The more who realize the importance of these vaccines, the better

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