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From birth we constantly encounter a great number of different viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents. Most are not harmful, many are beneficial, but some can cause disease.
The body's immune system helps protect us against infections. When we are exposed to infection, our immune system triggers a number of reactions to neutralise the infectious agents and limit their harmful effects. Exposure to an infectious disease often provides lifelong protection (immunity) so that a person will not have the same disease several times. This is because the immune system “remembers” the infectious agent.
Simple and effective protection against dangerous diseases
When we vaccinate, the immune system's "memory" is utilised. The body is exposed to small fragments of a weakened bacterium or virus, or something similar and the immune system is activated without us becoming sick. Dangerous infectious diseases can therefore be prevented in a simple and effective way. For some diseases, vaccination will lead to lifelong protection, in other cases the effect declines after some years and booster doses are required.
Infants tolerate vaccines well
In the womb, a child's immune system is already prepared to tackle various infectious agents that it will encounter after birth. Vaccines only use a small part of a child's immune capacity and cause less of a burden to the immune system than common infections, such as a cold. Infants therefore tolerate vaccination well and can receive several vaccinations at the same time.
When the majority of a population has been vaccinated against a disease, there are few people left to whom the infection can spread. This helps to protect the few who have not been vaccinated. With the help of vaccination, it is possible to eradicate some diseases worldwide. So far, this has been achieved for smallpox.
Childhood Immunisation Programme
The recommended programme for children and adolescents in Norway includes vaccines against twelve different diseases: rotavirus, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, poliomyelitis, infection with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease, measles, mumps, rubella and human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.
Some children are also offered vaccination against tuberculosis. All these diseases can be life-threatening or cause serious complications.
Vaccination usually begins when a child is six weeks old. Since several of the diseases vaccinated against affect the youngest children the hardest, delays should be avoided. Booster doses are given when a child reaches school age. The rotavirus vaccine is given orally (drinkable vaccine). The other vaccines are injected. Mercury is not used as a preservative in any of the vaccines in the Childhood Immunisation Programme.
Combination vaccines have been used since the Norwegian Childhood Immunisation Programme began in 1952. Vaccines against several diseases are given at the same time which means fewer injections for a child. Combination vaccines result in fewer side effects than when the vaccines are given separately.
All vaccination is voluntary.