This post is also available in: Svenska
With a three-month vaccine, your child gets protection against seven different bacteria and viruses. These bacteria and viruses are likely to cause even more deadly diseases if your child is not protected against them. The three-month vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hepatitis B, Hemophilus influenzae type B and pneumococcus. At the children’s medical center, a child receives two injections for the three-month vaccine: one syringe with 6 vaccines mixed (hexavalent vaccine) and one syringe with the pneumococcal vaccine. Boosters for the same two vaccines are also given at 5 months and 12 months.
Protection against whooping cough is the most important
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that causes severe pneumonia in infants. Babies are still dying from whooping cough in Sweden. Those babies who died, were not vaccinated. Precisely because whooping cough is so dangerous in infants, and because the bacteria circulates so easily in society, it is important to protect against the diesase as early as possible.
Protection against diphtheria is important if you are going abroad
Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes severe throat infections and leads to shortness of breath and death. Throat disease was the popular name for airway diphtheria. Another name was ‘true croup’, unrelated to the viral disease that we call croup now. Diphtheria epidemics would soon recur if we stopped vaccinating against diphtheria. For a single person who stays in Sweden and is not vaccinated, the risk of infection is small. This is thanks to herd immunity which also protects those who are not vaccinated.
Children need protection against tetanus before they start playing outdoors
Tetanus bacteria are found in soil and if they enter the blood stream through small openings, they can cause tetanus. There is no herd immunity in Sweden, so every individual needs their own vaccination protection against tetanus. The tetanus bacteria enters the body via wounds. After a few days, the bacteria forms a neurotoxin that spreads in the blood, creating stiffness in the muscles and cramping of the respiratory tract. There is an antidote, but mortality is quite high even with modern intensive care.
If a non-vaccinated person sustains a wound acquired from contact with soil, they need to seek medical care urgently to obtain antibodies against tetanus and to get the tetanus vaccine. The antibodies they give against tetanus come from blood donors that have previously been vaccinated against the disease. The same applies after animal or human bites. Tetanus bacteria can be present in both animal and human mouths.
Polio will hopefully be eradicated soon
Poliovirus is a stomach virus that can also attack nerves and cause paralysis. It was formerly known as infantile paralysis. Polio is almost eradicated worldwide. The risk of being infected, even if you’re not vaccinated, is small. Many countries require you to have had a polio vaccination to enter, precisely because polio eradication is a political priority. Once polio is eradicated, the WHO is likely to recommend removing polio vaccination from the three-month vaccine.
Hepatitis B vaccine protects against liver cancer and cirrhosis
The latest addition to the three-month syringe is the hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis B is a virus that is spread via bodily fluids eg. blood transfusions, sex and shared syringes as well as from mother to child. Hepatitis B infections affect the liver and are a major cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis in the world.
It may feel strange to vaccinate your newborn against a virus that infects through sex and dirty syringes. But imagine how nice it will be, to know that your child is protected against hepatitis B, if say, one day they find a dirty syringe in the park and hurt themselves.
The Hib vaccine has eradicated epiglottis
The three-month vaccine also includes a vaccine against Hib, or Hemophilus influenzae type B. Hib is a bacteria that caused severe epiglottitis, or larynx inflammation, and even meningitis. Both of which were sometimes fatal.
The vaccine against Hib has basically eradicated epiglottis and meningitis. Now Hib affects very few children in Sweden. It is important to continue vaccinating because the bacteria is still present in society.
The second three-month syringe contains pneumococcal vaccine
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against lung inflammation, otitis, meningitis and septicaemia caused by pneumococcus. There’s more to say about it, so there will be a new post about the pneumococcal vaccine going forward.
Side effects of the three-month vaccine
The most common side effects of the three-month vaccine are pain at the injection site and fever on the same or the next day that the vaccine was given. These side effects are not dangerous. You can give acetaminophen if you want to relieve the pain.
Serious side effects of the three-month vaccine are very rare. A frightening but harmless and very rare side effect is hypotonic hyporesponsive episode (HHE). In HHE episodes, a child becomes relaxed and does not respond to appeals for an hour or so. When a child loses consciousness, you should always seek emergency care, and if it is HHE, the child will spontaneously regain consciousness. Children affected by HHE will receive the next vaccine in hospital under supervision. In the vast majority of cases, it won’t happen again during the five-month vaccination.
Extremely premature babies, who have been seriously ill during the newborn period, have some risk of breathing difficulties after the three-month vaccine. These children would have received an extra dose, a two-month vaccination, in hospital. If it goes well, the risk of the three-month vaccine causing side effects is very low. But if your child had respiratory side effects from the two-month vaccine – check with the child’s doctor whether the child should receive the three-month vaccine.