Children and Immunization

Immunization, a critical facet of pediatric healthcare, involves the administration of vaccines to children to bolster their immune systems against various infectious diseases. These vaccines typically consist of weakened or inactivated viruses, as well as whole or partial bacterial components. They are commonly administered via injection, either into the muscle or beneath the skin, or orally. The primary goal of immunization is to safeguard both the individual and the broader community from disease outbreaks. It's important to note that side effects resulting from vaccinations are infrequent and, when they do occur, tend to be mild in nature.

Vaccines consist of antigens derived from either virus or bacteria, in whole or part, and are rendered nonfunctional or weakened. The primary purpose of these vaccines is to stimulate the immune system's response, ultimately establishing protective immunity against specific diseases. Today, many vaccines are available in combination formulations, simplifying the administration process. These combination vaccines amalgamate multiple vaccines into a single injection, offering children protection against numerous diseases in a single dose, thereby rendering the process less painful and more convenient.

In Malaysia, the National Immunization Program (NIP) was introduced in the early 1950s, taking its cues from the World Health Organization's (WHO) Expanded Immunization Program (EPI). The WHO EPI recommends that all countries immunize against six childhood diseases, but in Malaysia, the NIP has expanded protection to cover 13 major childhood diseases.

The 13 preventable diseases under the Malaysia National Immunization Program are as follows:

  1. Diphtheria: An infectious disease caused by bacteria that reside in the mouth and throat of the infected individual.
  2. Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib): A severe infection that predominantly affects children under the age of 5.
  3. Hepatitis B: An infection of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus.
  4. Human Papillomavirus (HPV): The most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can lead to cervical cancer, the third most prevalent cancer in women.
  5. Japanese Encephalitis (JE): A viral infection that affects the brain, caused by the JE virus.
  6. Measles: A highly contagious viral disease.
  7. Mumps: A viral infection that is the primary cause of encephalitis or brain inflammation.
  8. Pertussis (Whooping Cough): Highly contagious and characterized by violent, persistent coughing that can lead to breathing difficulties and cyanosis (turning blue).
  9. Poliomyelitis (Polio): An infectious and incurable viral disease that attacks the nervous system.
  10. Rubella: Also known as German measles, it can cause fetal abnormalities.
  11. Tetanus: Also known as lockjaw, caused by bacterial toxins that affect the nervous system.
  12. Tuberculosis (TB): A disease that primarily affects the lungs but can also impact other body parts such as the kidneys, spine, skin, intestines, and brain.
  13. Pneumococcal: A bacterial infection caused by Streptococcus pneumonia that can affect the lungs and other parts of the body.

The importance of these vaccinations remains paramount in today's advanced healthcare landscape. While healthcare systems and technologies continue to advance, several factors necessitate childhood immunization:

  1. Underdeveloped Immune Systems: Infants and children have immune systems that are not yet fully developed. Vaccinations play a pivotal role in training and strengthening a child's immune system, thereby protecting them from potentially life-threatening complications.
  2. Maternal Immunity Is Insufficient: Although newborns may receive some immunity, in the form of antibodies, from their mothers during the last weeks of pregnancy and through breast milk, this maternal immunity is limited in scope and duration. It only protects infants from diseases to which the mother is immune, lasting approximately nine months. Once this maternal immunity wanes, infants become susceptible to various diseases.
  3. Risks of Natural Infection: Relying on natural infection to develop immunity can be perilous. Children's bodies may not always effectively combat these diseases, leading to the necessity of experiencing and recovering from the disease, which in turn puts them at risk of life-threatening complications. Childhood immunization provides a safe and effective alternative, offering protection comparable to that of natural immunity without subjecting children to such risks.

In conclusion, childhood immunization serves as a cornerstone of public health and child well-being. It safeguards children against a wide array of diseases, ensuring their health and contributing to community-wide disease control. The rationale behind immunization, even in a modern healthcare landscape, remains robust, considering the imperfections and limitations of natural immunity and the imperative of bolstering the still-developing immune systems of infants and children. By adhering to comprehensive vaccination programs, we can protect the most vulnerable members of society, securing a healthier future for all.



  1. Immunise for life. The Importance of Childhood Immunization.
  2. Immunise of life. Malaysia National Immunization Program.
  3. Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH). MyHealth Portal. Immunization: Facts and Myths
  4. Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH). My Health Portal. Introduction to Immunization.