The Hexavalent Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know

The hexavalent vaccine protects against 6 serious infections in children: 4 bacterial and 2 viral. It must be applied in several doses.
The Hexavalent Vaccine: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 20 December, 2021

Vaccines are medicines created to protect people against certain types of infections. In this sense, they strengthen our immunity to prevent us from getting sick or developing serious forms of a disease. In the case of combination vaccines, such as the hexavalent vaccine, children can be protected against 6 major infections in a single injection. In other words, we provide them with comprehensive coverage at the expense of a minor condition.

In addition to the advantages that these vaccines provide to children, the benefits also impact families. They reduce costs (transfer, time, aftercare) and simplify the task of keeping the vaccination schedule up to date.

Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the hexavalent vaccine in children.

What diseases does the hexavalent vaccine prevent?

As we’ve anticipated, this combined immunization provides immunity against 6 different germs, which have been responsible for a high percentage of infant deaths prior to the development of vaccines.

In the following article, we’re going to tell you which infections your child can avoid by getting this immunization.

Diphtheria

This disease is caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diptheriae and it’s a potentially serious condition. This is because it mainly affects the mucous membranes of the nose and throat and forms a layer or membrane in them that prevents breathing.

In addition, it can infect skin tissues and cause cell death.

The responsible bacterium is transmitted from person to person and in general, it’s the adults who carry it without knowing it. When acquired by a young child, it can lead to death. Therefore, it’s important to vaccinate everyone under 5 years of age.

Tetanus

Tetanus is an infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which can also lead to death.

The clinical picture is characterized by starting mildly with headaches and cramps in the jaw, but then progressing to strong muscle spasms (sudden and involuntary muscle tension). Ultimately, this can lead to paralysis of the diaphragm and the inability to breathe.

Said bacteria enter the body through skin wounds or erosions, burns, or animal bites. In general, it’s found in dust and in the ground, as it’s capable of surviving adverse conditions for a long time.

A petri dish full of bacterial growth.

Whooping cough (pertussis)

This is a serious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which attacks the lungs and produces violent attacks of coughing and apnea. If not treated in time, it can cause cardiorespiratory failure and lead to death.

It affects people of any age, although in babies under 6 months, the infection can be much more serious.

Haemophilus influenzae type b infection

This bacterium causes serious infections of various kinds, mainly in babies and young children. Among the most prominent, we can point out bacterial meningitis, septicemia, pneumonia, septic arthritis, and epiglottitis, among others.

Children under 3 years of age are especially vulnerable, as they lack the specific immunity to combat the entry of capsulated microorganisms, such as this bacterium.

Poliomyelitis

Fortunately, in many parts of the world, polio is an eradicated disease. And this has a lot to do with the massification of its vaccine.

This disease is caused by poliovirus, which has a predilection (or tropism) for nerve tissues. That’s why it affects the spinal cord and causes progressive muscle paralysis in all 4 limbs. In some cases, it can also affect the respiratory muscles and lead to respiratory failure and death.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted infection, but it can also be acquired through the blood. Even during the time of delivery, a mother can transmit it to her baby.

This infection mainly affects the liver, but progresses over time and can lead to complications throughout the body. Over the years, damage from the virus can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis.

At what age should this vaccine be given?

In the vaccination schedule in the United States, this vaccine is applied in 3 doses, according to the following scheme :

  1. First dose at 2 months of age.
  2. Second dose at 4 months of age.
  3. Third dose at 6 months of age.

Its administration is by deep intramuscular route, that is, the drug is injected into the body of the muscle.

Generally, in babies, the thigh (the anterior and lateral aspect of the vastus external muscle) is chosen, and when they begin to ambulate, the arm (deltoid muscle) is chosen.

It’s important to note that each country has its own hexavalent vaccination scheme. This can also vary according to the indications of the laboratory that manufactures the product.

When all doses are applied, the coverage percentage for all its components is 98%.

Finally, this vaccine can be administered simultaneously with other vaccines, in the event that the child has several immunizations scheduled. This favors compliance with the recommended scheme for minors.

Is the hexavalent vaccine safe?

The hexavalent vaccine has been shown to be highly safe and effective. It’s even been approved by different international health entities, such as the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicines (EMEA) together with its Scientific Committee on Pharmaceutical Specialties.

After having been subjected to a series of tests and scientific studies, it was finally authorized to be marketed as a reliable product for administration in babies and children.

Side effects of the hexavalent vaccine

Like all vaccines, hexavalent also has some side effects. In general, these appear within the first 24 to 48 hours after application and can be some of the following:

  • Crying and irritability
  • Low fever
  • Local reaction (inflammation, redness, and pain at the puncture site)
  • Vomiting

Serious side effects are very rare, but should be taken into account in the event that they appear:

  • Seizures
  • Hypotonia, muscle flaccidity, or lack of response to stimuli

If any of them occur, you need to go immediately to a pediatric emergency center. This way, the child can be evaluated by the appropriate professional in order to prevent more important consequences.

A mother feeling her sleeping baby's forehead with ther hand.

When is this vaccine contraindicated?

The hexavalent vaccine is very safe, yet it should still be avoided in the following circumstances:

  • The presence of fever or an infection at the time of vaccination
  • Uncontrolled neurological diseases
  • A history of anaphylactic reactions after the administration of the previous doses
  • Allergies to some of its components, which have manifested themselves in previous experiences

Vaccines save lives!

Vaccines are the first step in preventing life-threatening childhood infections and have saved millions of lives in recent decades. But more important than the product is to be consistent and complete the schemes recommended by scientific societies.

If you have questions about the safety and efficacy of this or other vaccines, it’s important that you discuss them with your pediatrician. Health professionals are the most qualified people to inform you about the risks and benefits of immunizations in children.

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