Why You Need Another Booster Vaccine for Some Diseases

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Immunisation is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of preventing certain diseases like meningitis and hepatitis B. When a person receives a vaccine against certain disease agents such as the hepatitis B virus, it usually takes about two weeks for the body's immune system to start producing antibodies in response to the agents.

This response by the immune system after a dose of a vaccine may be long-lasting (lasting for many years or even for life), meaning only one dose is enough to confer life-long immunity against the specific disease.

On the other hand, the immune response may be short-lived (conferring immunity for only a few months or years) after the first dose of a vaccine. This is due to the fact that:

-The body's immune system is slow in its response to certain disease agents

-Some disease-causing agents may multiply and spread faster in the body than the immune system's response

-The ability of the immune system to still recognise and produce the specific antibodies against a particular microorganism declines with time for some vaccines.

Therefore, multiple doses of a specific vaccine are required to give a person a long-lasting immunity against a particular disease. This is the reason some vaccines are given as multiple doses.

1. Childhood vaccines like those against polio, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and hepatitis B are administered more than once at specific periods. Completion of the doses for each of these vaccines confers on the child total immunity against these diseases for many years and even for life for some of the diseases.

This is why parents must ensure their babies receive all the recommended immunisations according to the National Programme on Immunisation.

2. For young people and adults, vaccines against the hepatitis B virus, the human papilloma virus (which causes cervical cancer in women), chicken pox (for people who have not had the disease before), tetanus (for women above 15 years of age) are administered more than once (multiple doses) at specific times. So, you should ensure you receive all the doses for any of these vaccines once you take the first dose.

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Published Wednesday, April 26th 2017

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