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Vaccines reduce risks of getting a disease by working with your body’s natural defenses to build protection.


When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds. It:

  • Recognizes the invading germ, such as the virus or bacteria.

  • Produces antibodies. Antibodies are proteins produced naturally by the immune system to fight disease.

  • Remembers the disease and how to fight it. If you are then exposed to the germ in the future, your immune system can quickly destroy it before you become unwell.


The vaccine is therefore a safe and clever way to produce an immune response in the body, without causing illness.

Our immune systems are designed to remember. Once exposed to one or more doses of a vaccine, we typically remain protected against a disease for years, decades or even a lifetime. This is what makes vaccines so effective. Rather than treating a disease after it occurs, vaccines prevent us in the first instance from getting sick.

Edward Jenner demonstrated the value of immunisation against smallpox in 1792.  Nearly 200 years later, in 1977, smallpox was eradicated from the world through the widespread and targeted use of the vaccine.  In 1974, based on the emerging success of smallpox, the World Health Organization (WHO) established the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI - BCG, OPV, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and measles).  

Through the 1980s, (United Nations Children Education Fund) UNICEF worked with the WHO to achieve Universal Childhood Immunisation of the six EPI vaccines ​

Barbados Immunisation Schedule

2 months      1st DPT and Oral/IM Polio, HIB, Hep B
                     & Pneumococcus

4 months      2nd DPT and Oral/IM Polio, HIB, Hep B 

                     & Pneumococcus

6 months      3rd DPT and Oral/IM Polio, HIB, Hep B

                     & Pneumococcus

12 months    1st Measles, Mumps. Rebella

18 months    1st Booster DPT & Oral/IM Polio

3-5 years      2nd Measles, Mumps, Ruebella

4 1/2 years   2nd Booster DPT & Oral/IM Polio

5 years         B.C.G (usually given at school)

11 years       3rd booster DT & Oral/IM Polio

Important Facts For Parents About Immunisation

  • Immunisation is very important because it protects children against several dangerous diseases. 

  • A child who is not immunized is more likely to become sick, permanently disabled or undernourished, and could possibly die.

  • Immunisation is especially important during the first year and into the second year of a child’s life. 

  • It is essential that all infants get all recommended vaccines at the right time.

  • Some vaccines require multiple doses for full protection.  It is important for every child to complete the full number of these immunizations  and parents and those responsible for children should follow the immunizations scheduled set out by the Ministry of Health (see chart).

  • All children, including those who are disabled, need to be vaccinated.  A child is immunized by vaccines, which are injected or given by mouth. The vaccines work by building up the child’s defences against diseases.

  • Immunization only works if given before the disease strikes.

  • A child who is not immunized is very likely to get measles, whooping cough and many other diseases that can kill. Children who survive these diseases are weakened and may not grow well. They may be permanently disabled. They may die later from malnutrition and other illnesses.

  • All pregnant women and infants need to be immunized against tetanus.

  • Immunizing a woman or adolescent with at least two doses of tetanus toxoid before or during pregnancy protects the newborn for the first few weeks of life and protects the mother.

  • It is safe to immunize a child who has a minor illness or a disability or is malnourished.

  • Many parents do not take a child to be immunized because the child has a fever, cough, cold, diarrhoea or some other illness. However, it is safe to immunize a child who has a minor illness.

  • It is also safe to immunize a child who has a disability or is malnourished. If a child is HIV-positive or suspected to be HIV-positive, a trained health worker should be consulted about which vaccines to give the child.

  • After an injection, the child may cry or develop a fever, a minor rash or a small  sore. This is normal and shows that the vaccine is working.   Children under 6  months of age should breastfeed frequently; older children should be given plenty of liquids and foods.

  • If the child develops a high fever (over 38 degrees Celsius) the child should be given medical attention.

  • A new syringe must be used for every person being immunized. People should demand a new syringe for every vaccination.

  • Sharing syringes and needles, even among family members, can spread life-threatening diseases.

  • All immunizations in any setting, including emergencies, should be given with syringes that can be used only once.

  • The vaccination card of a child (or an adult) should be presented to the health  worker before every immunization.

  • When a child is immunized, the health worker should record the vaccine, which dose it is (first, second, etc.) and the date on an immunization or health card given to the parents or other caregiver. The immunizations should also be recorded and kept at the health clinic.

  • It is important for the parents or other caregiver to keep the immunization card and bring it with them the next time the child is vaccinated.  With it, the health worker can record which vaccines the child has received and the date they were given. The healh worker can also provide information to the parents or other caregiver on vaccines that are missing or remaining.

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