Which vaccines are used in South Africa?

  • BCG is used to immunise against tuberculosis, especially tuberculous meningitis and miliary tuberculosis in children, which are two of the most severe forms of tuberculosis.
  • A live polio virus vaccine is used to protect children against poliomyelitis, which is a viral infection that can cause permanent paralysis.
  • Diphtheria toxoid and tetanus toxoid are used to protect against the effects of diphtheria and tetanus infections. Diphtheria infection can cause airway obstruction and damage to the heart and nerves. Tetanus infection causes convulsions and muscle spasms.
  • Pertussis vaccine protects against the infection which causes whooping cough. It is usually given together with diphtheria and tetanus toxoid (DPT).
  • A live measles vaccine is used to protect children against measles.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is used to protect against hepatitis B.
  • Haemophilus influenzae B vaccine (Hib), which is the latest vaccine to be added to the South African expanded programme on immunisation, protects against serious infections, such as meningitis, caused by Haemophilus influenzae type B.

Some vaccines are alive (BCG, oral polio, measles) while others are dead (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza B). A toxoid is an inactivated toxin.

In future, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine will replace measles immunisation alone, while hepatitis A, pneumococcal and chickenpox (varicella) immunisations should be added to the routine immunisations. Yellow fever immunisation is routinely given in countries where yellow fever occurs. New vaccines, such as the Rota virus vaccine, could be very important, but are expensive.

It is easier to give combined vaccines such as DPT plus Hib as less injections are needed. In future more combination vaccines will be used.

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