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Babies 0-12 Months | Your Baby's Wellbeing

Child immunization schedule

What exactly are vaccinations?

At birth, babies are immunised by antibodies that have passed through the placenta. During the first few months of life, breastfed babies are also beautifully protected because mom’s milk is brimming with antibodies. This protection, although it offers myriad benefits, is temporary. This is where vaccines take over as watchdog.

But what are immunisations and how do they work?

In simple terms, vaccines are made up of weakened or dead germs that cause specific diseases.

By injecting this weakened microorganism into a healthy body, the immune system believes there is a real infection so it kicks into action, and the body goes into combat. Antibodies against the disease are produced, the germ is kicked in the guts and the immune system stores the information so that it can fight the same germ should it enter the body at a later stage. The end result is immunity against the disease… and before you can say Barney the Dinosaur, the score card reads Cute Kid: 1, Naughty Bugs: 0.

No parent likes the idea of a needle pointing in their child’s direction, but every parent has also heard that prevention is better than cure. Vaccinations may sting and may even have a side-effect or two, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.

The occurrence of diseases for which vaccinations are available has been enormously reduced or, in some cases, just about eradicate, which means that your little angel doesn’t need to ever experience mumps, smallpox, whooping cough or any of the other nasties that used to plague children centuries ago.

Vaccinations (also known as immunisations or, less commonly, inoculations) are inexpensive, safe, readily available, necessary for admission to primary school and, therefore, a logical step in raising healthy children.

Apart from the obvious benefit of vaccinations protecting our own children, medical professionals believe that we owe it to the rest of society to vaccinate too. Vaccines are not 100% effective, which means that those who have been immunised are still at risk of becoming infected by people who have not received the vaccine, should they fall ill. In order to prevent large outbreaks of various diseases, experts have established a minimum percentage of the population that must be vaccinated – this proportion is known as herd immunity. The more children who get vaccinated, the more successful the immunisation programme will be in the end. This is something to keep in mind, as it means that the decision of each individual to vaccinate or not has a direct effect on the health of society as a whole.

Whatever you choose to believe, it is vital to do your homework: speak to your doctor, research the pros and cons of immunisation, talk to other parents. Our minds are made up, and we are all for vaccinations.

Not only do schools throughout South Africa insist on a full immunisation record, but we’re not leaving anything to chance as far as viruses, bacteria and naughty bugs are concerned: with a vial of vaccine at the ready, we have the upper hand against those baddies for sure.

Where to from here?

Your baby will be immunised against polio and tuberculosis shortly after birth. After that, all immunisations will be up to you. Speak to your doctor about the various options and where you can go – you may decide to have your paediatrician administer all immunisations, or you may prefer to go to one of the hundreds of baby clinics around the country. Either way, you will receive a vaccination booklet, in which all shots are recorded.

A certified copy of this book will be required when applying for pre-school and primary school, so keep it in a safe and accessible place.

Immunisation list

The list below incorporates all required vaccinations.

You will notice that most vaccinations are repeated at a later stage, as denoted by numbers alongside the name.

To help you decode the various vaccines, here’s what they fight and what the abbreviations mean:


Tuberculosis (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin Vaccine)


Polio (Oral Polio Vaccine)


Rotavirus Vaccine


Diphtheria, Tetanus & acellular Pertussis (whooping cough) Vaccine
plus Inactivated Polio Vaccine
plus Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (meningitis) Vaccine

Hep B-

Hepatitis B Vaccine


Pneumococcal Conjugated Vaccine


Measles Vaccine


Measles, Mumps & Rubella (German measles) Vaccine


Tetanus & reduced strength Diphtheria Vaccine

Your vaccination guide
Protecting and caring for your child

Apart from the routine vaccinations, note that non-compulsory vaccines are also available for chickenpox, flu, hepatitis A and specific strains of meningitis. Speak to your paediatrician for advice on whether you should vaccinate your child against these. The expanded immunisation programme in South Africa is as follows:


BCG- Injected into right arm
OPV (0)- Drops by mouth

6 weeks

OPV (1)- Drops by mouth
RV (1)- Liquid by mouth
DTap-IPV//Hib (1)- Injected into left thigh
Hep B (1)- Injected into right thigh
PCV (1)- Injected into right thigh

10 weeks

DTap-IPV//Hib (2)- Injected into left thigh
Hep B (2)- Injected into right thigh

14 weeks

RV (2)- Liquid by mouth
DTap-IPV//Hib (3)- Injected into left thigh
Hep B (3)- Injected into right thigh
PCV (2)- Injected into right thigh

9 months

Measles (1)- Injected into left thigh
PCV (3)- Injected into right thigh

18 months

DTap-IPV//Hib (4)- Injected into left arm
Measles (2)- Injected into right arm

6 years

Td- Injected into left arm

12 years

Td- Injected into left arm

The jab – What to expect

Be prepared

Don’t give your child any medication before the shot without asking your doctor first, and tell the clinic nurse or doctor about any medication you may have given your child should this be the case
Remember to take your child’s immunisation record book along
Pack your little one’s favourite toy or most loved teddy (and, shame, pack an extra plaster for teddy too)
Keep some paediatric paracetamol handy
Make sure you know where the clinic is – getting lost will just create stress
Don’t let your child pick up on any stress. Millions of parents are going through the same thing, so relax
Talk or read to your child or recite a rhyme before and during the shot. Distraction works brilliantly
Place a cold compress on the area to prevent soreness
Encourage physical activity later in the day will also prevent a sore arm or leg
Plan a fun outing for afterwards to encourage a brave face next time

Normal side-effects

Distress. Calm your child by asking him to put the plaster on teddy, or take him somewhere fun
Fever. A raised temperature means that the immune system is working. Administer some paracetamol
Redness. It is normal for the area around the injected site to be inflamed for two or three days
Bumps. A small bump without pus is another sign that the body is reacting as it should
Rash. This is a mild form of the disease you’ve vaccinated against, which should dissipate on its own

When to worry

Persistent fever. Call your doctor if fever becomes very high or does not normalise within a day or two
Pus. If there is pus in the bump at the site, or if the bump is larger than 1cm across, call your doctor
Allergic reaction. It is rare for a child to be allergic to an individual component within the vaccine, but it can happen. Symptoms include trouble breathing, hives, dizziness or palpitations and usually occur between one minute and three hours after the shot has been given. Check your family’s medical history to exclude allergies to various medications and vaccines.


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