Immunizations part 1- how they work

The immune system is like the police force or army of our body. It is responsible for killing any germ that enters our body. In young children the immune system is not well developed and they are prone to getting infections that can make children so ill that they die.

When a germ enters the body, the soldiers have to recognize it as a “bad guy” before our immune system can respond. Just like an army fights with weapons such as guns, our body makes weapons called antibodies. These help to get rid of the germs and make us better.  Long after we are better, our army keeps guard by ensuring that these weapons remain in our blood stream to keep away similar germs in the future.

Vaccines also called immunizations contain killed or inactive germs. When they enter our bodies they stimulate our bodies to make antibodies which first get rid of the “vaccine germs” and then remain in our bodies to protect us later from any of the germs which can cause disease.

The vaccine germs are powerless and do not cause disease. The protection they offer from serious disease far outweighs the few, short-lived side-effects. Common side effects include fever and soreness or redness at injection site. Medicine for pain and fever can be given ahead of the vaccine or shortly after to reduce these symptoms. 

Immunizations save lives and are available in Jamaica to protect our children from some 12 different diseases.


Paediatric Association of Jamaica














Immunization part 2- What should my child receive?


There are eight diseases that every child in Jamaica should by law be protected from. These include tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus ( lock jaw), polio, measles mumps and rubella. The immunization card will record these vaccines as BCG, DPT, OPV AND MMR. There are other vaccines that are also offered routinely in other countries. These include those that help to protect children from serious bacteria that can cause chest infections  and infections around the brain (pneumococcal and HiB vaccine shortened for the germ haemophilus influenza type B). There are also vaccines that protect against chicken pox ( varicella vaccine) and infections of the liver (hepatitis B vaccine).

All  children 5 years and younger should have the HiB vaccine required for protection against developing certain causes of meningitis. Parents should be encouraged to seek this privately until this is readily available at the health centres

It is important that your baby begin receiving his vaccines on time. Most of the serious diseases are more likely to occur in early life and delay could cost you your child’s life. Unless your child has a serious illness on the day that he/she is due to have shots; there is no need to postpone immunization. The common cold is no reason to withhold shots. However, children who have very weak immune systems e.g. HIV –positive patients are a special group and as such need to be treated differently.


 Immunizations are important medicines that protect children from certain diseases. Keep your children healthy and immunize them today.

Paediatric Association of Jamaica