Knowing the madness that is part of getting vaccinations at the health centers here in Qatar, I made sure I got my appointments well in advance. In fact, I made the appointment for 24 April, on 24 March itself. I was not going to risk not getting an appointment.
And considering that I am not insured, I absolutely was not willing to pay thousands of riyals to get it done privately. The difference for the 2-month at a health center and the private I go to is just QR 2200. HA! No, thanks.
Anyhow, the two-month vaccinations include Rota1, PCV1, and Hexa. So, that is two shots to the thighs, and one oral. At 4 months, babies receive Rota 2, PCV 2, OPV and Penta. That included 1 shot to each thigh, and the rest were administered orally.
WHAT ARE THEY FOR?
The Rota vaccine is to prevent the rotavirus infection, which causes severe vomiting, and diarrhea, which is a result of inflammation of the intestine and tummy. It can be very serious, and could prove fatal if not taken care of in time.
There are two types of vaccinations, and as far as I know, the one given in Doha is Rotarix, and it is given orally at 2 and 4months.
The PCV, given at 2 and 4 months, tackles possible infections of the pneumococcal disease. I didn’t know what that means, but it is pretty horrid, based on what I read.
The Hexa combats a few illnesses including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis and disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b.
The OPV is the oral polio vaccine. Thanks to this vaccine, polio is now almost extinct across the world.
The Penta – similar to the hexa – is a combined vaccine with five individual vaccines conjugated into one, intended to actively protect people from 5 potentially deadly diseases including tetatus, and whooping cough.
The FIRST SET of the dreaded jabs – My experience
From almost a month before the 2-month vaccination date, I was starting to get the jitters. My poor baby was going to get a needle! And a lot of the stories I had read didn’t help my confidence.
In fact, I was so worried that I dragged my parents back with me from Bahrain to give me moral support. I couldn’t even sleep well the night before, and on the day, I had packed in too much – we had his hearing test first thing, followed by my appointment at the PHCC for the shots. To say I was a mess by this point would be an understatement.
It didn’t help that he was in a terribly fussy mood, and the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed – as per nurse’s request. Since I was delayed for my appointment, I actually had to wait a little longer, and this led to my baby crying a lot. Luckily for me, my mom could take him for a while, and help me calm him down.
At the PHCC, the nurses will check his height, weight and temperature. Ask me about his diet, and update their records. What surprised me was the fact that they also share advice on breastfeeding, and also tell you how to clean baby’s gums with a gauze or cotton cloth.
The waiting (however short) to be called in to the doctor’s for the dosage is dreadful. I think it’s the panic in the air, of the new parents waiting to get the vaccinations, and the howling of the babies who did get their shot. It is quite nerve-wracking, at least the first time around.
It didn’t help at all that the zipper on my tunic got stuck in the middle of all this! Ugh! And a nice aunty had to help me zip up.
Once we finally got called into the doctor’s office, it was a pretty quick, and efficient experience. The doctor will discuss your concerns, and have a lookover, and examine the baby. The nurse will then administer the oral vaccinations, followed by the injections.
Heartbreaking. That is the one word to describe it. My baby was getting the injections, but both of us were feeling the pain. I was bawling almost as much as my baby was.
In fact, the nurse asked me if I could manage holding my baby still, or if I wanted her to. It is essential that the baby is held firmly, so that the nurses can inject at the right spot.
But based on other moms’ advices, I did try my best to keep up a brave face, and tell my baby how strong and wonderful he is. I so think babies can sense mom’s moods and is more unsettled if mommy is upset.
Two injections, and two big band-aids later, we were done.
We were given Adol, and asked to gently massage the area in the evening. Fortunately for us, baby did not develop a fever and we did not need to give the Adol. However, the injection site did seem a bit stiff, and baby was a bit fussy the entire day.
ROUND 2 – My experience
I got 4month appointment, at the PHCC on the day of the 2 month. This was a late evening appointment as it was Ramadan. And yes, I was pretty much as miserable in the lead up as I was for the two month. Will it ever get any better I wonder?
Same routine, we reached the PHCC, and registered. The nurses check his vitals, and then we move to the doctor’s room. Doctor checks, explains, and the vaccinations are given.
I think the fact that my husband was with me had a calming effect, but I still did cry. But this time, not as much as my bubs. Same story afterwards too: a bit fussy, no fever.
I must add that this was the quickest hospital visit we had. We were done and out in less than 40 minutes.
PS – we definitely needed our baby’s health card to be presented for the 4month vaccination. Getting the card is easy-peasy. You need mother’s health card, baby’s ID, and vaccination book, photograph of baby, and 100 QR. Present it at your health center, get the number, and get it printed at one of the Hamad hospitals.
The PHCC doctors will give you a prescription of Adol that can be collected at the pharmacy.
One of the most curious questions I have come across often is : should we give Adol to the baby before the vaccination? Answer is a big no! Would you take medicine before you have a fever? Ofcourse not. Same applies for baby.
Also, some studies suggest that giving a baby medication before a vaccination could adversely affect its impact, and lessen immunity. Czech researchers have found a significantly lower vaccine response with the painkiller – in a study of almost 450 babies.
Even after, it is recommended to give Adol only if really required, and the baby has a fever. And don’t give medication, as a practice. Babies are still too young and need to develop their immunity and systems, so constantly suppressing any fever they may have does more harm than good.
In a BBC report, Dr David Elliman, Great Ormond Street Hospital has said: “Giving paracetamol before or after vaccines is not to be encouraged because firstly it has little benefit and secondly this preliminary data suggests it may do harm.”
Most nurses tell you not to breastfeed the baby just before the vaccinations. And it seems pretty cruel. But the reason they tell you is to ensure that the baby does not throw up the oral doses. Some babies, like mine, are prone to spitting up, and as such, I tried to feed atleast 20minutes before the actual vaccination. If you do choose to feed, as it will help the baby be calm after, try and keep the baby upright, and don’t move him around much, for atleast 10minutes.
TIPS TO GET THROUGH
- During the injections, rub the baby’s arm gently, sing softly, and hug close. Whatever soothes them, try and do it.
- Let your baby know that you are there for them. Kisses, cuddles and hugs. Carry them constantly if you can. They need you more than ever. Be there.
- If you use pacifiers, definitely take them with you.
- Carry baby’s rattles and other toys. The more colorful and distracting the better.
- Don’t overdress the baby, I ensured that there he was wearing a onesie which was sleeveless and didn’t cover legs, so that the area where the injection was given was not obstructed.
- Keep them entertained and distracted.
- Feed, feed, feed, especially if you are breastfeeding. The closeness, and the milk helps them be calm.
- An ice pack can help. But don’t put direct ice to the area. I have heard opposing views on this, as some people say that babies will equate that much cold to pain. So wrap the ice in a piece of cloth, or put a damp cloth to the region.
ROTA VIRUS VACCINATION AFTERCARE: Always remember, ROTA is a live vaccine, and as such can be transmitted even to adults through the babies poo. So, please ensure that you tie up the diaper and bin it outside the house at every change. Wash your hands (as you should do anyway), after every change.
ALL THE BEST with the dreaded jabs!
It is a tough time, for parents and baby, to go through these jabs. But you know, better safe than sorry. And it is for the best! So hang in there, you all will be fine indeed.