7.5.1  Mild reactions to vaccines

As you already know from Study Sessions 2 and 3, most immunizations do not cause any serious health problems. Any vaccine reactions that do occur are usually mild and last only a day or two. They may include:

  • swelling, soreness and redness at the injection site
  • a low-grade fever, particularly after pentavalent, DPT or measles vaccination
  • a slight rash, most often after measles vaccination
  • some babies may display irritability (they are easily upset), or malaise (they seem low in energy and not interested in anything), particularly after pentavalent vaccination.

However, if scheduled doses of vaccines are not given because of mild reactions to a previous dose, this will lead to delayed immunization, or no immunization at all. If you allow this to happen, you will miss opportunities to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Therefore, you should take every opportunity to immunize children, even if they have experienced a mild reaction previously.

Managing mild vaccine reactions

Advice on managing the common vaccine reactions should be given to parents, as well as instructions to return if there are more serious symptoms. This will help to reassure parents about immunization and prepare them for these common reactions.

Paracetamol may be needed to reduce fever. However, paracetamol should NEVER be given before vaccination because it reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine, i.e. the vaccine works less well in children who have taken paracetamol

Paracetamol is useful for the common minor reactions. It eases pain and reduces fever. A feverish child can be cooled with a tepid sponge or bath, and by wearing cool clothing. Extra fluids need to be given to feverish children. For a local reaction, a cold cloth applied to the site may ease the pain.

7.5  Adverse events following immunization (AEFIs)

7.5.2  Serious vaccine reactions