As part of the Global Vaccination Awareness Campaign, Nicky Manson explores the combination vaccine and why it gets such a bad rap.
The development of combination vaccines for protection against multiple diseases first began in 1948 and individual doses of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines were combined into a single product (DTP). This became the cornerstone of paediatric and adult immunisation programmes. Today there are a number of combination vaccines available, with more due to hit the market in the future.
The Value In A Combination
Combination vaccines are designed to minimise the amount of shots a child has in their first year. This is usually preferred by parents who want their child to be on the receiving end of as few needle pricks as possible, while receiving full protection – and for doctors too, who would prefer to give as few shots as they can. The vaccine combines protection against two or more diseases into one shot. Three important ones that are spread out over your child’s first year of life include:
MMR (Priorix) – The combination of measles, mumps and rubella vaccines.
DtaP – The combination of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines.
Infanrix hexa vaccine – A further combination of DtaP is measles, mumps, hepatitis B, Polio and rubella vaccines.
More Vaccines, Fewer Shots
The number of immunisations recommended for children in the first two years of life has dramatically increased over time. The more combination vaccines introduced, the fewer injections. In addition, research has shown that if many injections are due at the same time, some may be delayed or not given at all. Fewer injections also mean fewer visits to the doctor or clinic, which in turn results in higher rates of compliance with the vaccination schedule. Another argument in favour of the combination vaccine is that spreading out the vaccines in the form of single doses would result in children remaining vulnerable and unprotected for longer. With combination vaccines like the MMR, children have good protection against mumps, measles and rubella from the first jab onwards.
However, there is always two sides to an argument and, like many discussions around child care, the combination vaccine has not escaped debate or criticism. Some doctors believe that one disadvantage of giving vaccines in combination is that it may not always be clear which component is responsible for a particular adverse event or allergy. Just as important as safety is ensuring that combining antigens does not compromise the protection afforded by each antigen. Some healthcare practitioners also believe that giving a small child a combination vaccine is actually administrating too many varying ingredients into a young body at one time.