5-in-1 DTaP/IPV/Hib Injection

The DTaP/IPV/Hib injection is an important part of the UK’s childhood immunisation programme, an immunisation schedule designed to protect children from a range of highly infectious and potentially dangerous diseases. In this article we take a closer look at the DTaP/IPV/Hib injection, what it does, and when it is given.

What does the DTaP/IPV/Hib do?

The 5-in-1 injection vaccinates children against five diseases that could pose a serious threat to their health should an infection occur without prior immunisation:

  • Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) is a bacterial condition caused by the bacterium H. influenza. This particular pathogen usually lives on in a host without causing any disease or illness until the host’s body suffers from another infection that weakens it. When this happens, the bacterium is quick to take advantage and can cause any one of a number of conditions which can be severe in small children, including pneumonia and acute meningitis. Effective vaccinations against this bacteria have been around for over two decades, and since its development it has been an important part of childhood immunisation programmes both in the UK and abroad.
  • Diphtheria (D) is an infection of the upper respiratory tract, and is also caused by bacteria. The condition usually causes a fever and sore throat, and rapidly spreads either through contact with fluids from the respiratory tract that become aerosolized through sneezing and coughing. The condition can worsen and cause severe complications including heart problems and nerve dysfunction. While in the past, diphtheria was fairly widespread and a major health concern, modern vaccination schemes have reduced the incidences of infection to the point where the condition is no longer widespread. Diphtheria’s negative effects are caused by a potent toxin that the bacteria releases into its host.
  • The whooping cough (pertussis – aP) is another bacterial infection caused by Bordetella pertussis. This is a chest infection that develops into severe coughing fits which cause  characteristic, high pitched ‘whooping’ noise. Treatment for the condition is not very effective, one of the reasons why vaccinating against it is so important.
  • Tetanus (T) is a bacterial infection which causes severe muscle spasms induced by the release of a potent poison from the bacteria involved. One of the characteristic signs of tetanus is a spasming of the muscles of the jaw which led to lock jaw. Vaccinating against tetanus is important because even after infection a person does not develop immunity against the disease.
  • Polio was one of the most widespread and severe childhood conditions in the world prior to the introduction of a global vaccination programme. Polio is an acute vital infection which causes extensive damage to the nervous system, causing paralysis that can be fatal in the most severe of cases. At its peak polio seriously affected 1,000 children a day, but now thanks to vaccines like the DTaP/IPV/Hib the disease is not so widespread.

When is the DTaP/IPV/Hib provided?

As mentioned above, the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine is an essential part of the NHS’ childhood vaccination programme. This vaccine is offered as a course of three injections, all injected into a baby’s thigh muscle at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Three doses are necessary to achieve an adequate level of immunisation against the disease.

Every baby in the UK is entitled to this vaccine, and even though parents have the right to refuse vaccination the 5-in-1 is highly recommended because of the virulent and dangerous nature of the diseases it vaccinates against. The only babies who shouldn’t have the vaccine are those who have suffered severe allergic reactions against it in the past, and these reactions are extremely rare.

Is the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine safe?

The safety of the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine has been extensively investigated prior to its release and widespread use. You should rest easy in the fact that every vaccine implemented as part of the childhood programme has been thoroughly vetted for any safety concerns.

The DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine does cause some side effects, and most of these are extremely common and nothing to worry about. Over 10% of babies receiving the vaccine will experience some irritability, which will present as more crying than usual, a slight fever, and some inflammation and redness around the injection wound. These are natural signs of the body’s immune response against the vaccine.  Fewer babies will have slightly more serious side effects including diarrhoea or vomiting and a loss of appetite.

Very few babies (somewhere between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000) will experience fits, and a very minute number of babies will have either a severe anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine or suffer from a high fever (around 40 degrees C).

If your baby suffers from any of the more severe side effects discussed here you should talk to your GP or nurse as soon as possible. In most cases however, the DTaP/IPV/Hib is perfectly safe and tolerated very well.

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