Why I recommend vaccination for every child

22nd September 2015 was when I entered into the new phase of motherhood. As I held the tiny bundle of joy in my arms after a difficult c-section, everything else felt inconsequential. In a while, the Pediatrician came for his round of duty and this was when he spoke about the need for vaccination in the case of new-born babies. My husband, also a Doctor by profession, listened attentively as the Pediatrician explained the vaccination chart to us.

The next couple of weeks were about getting adjusted to this new schedule of life. My focus area had shifted to understanding the importance of WHO-recommended exclusive breastfeeding for six months and surviving the state of being perennially sleep-deprived. I was lucky to be surrounded by an understanding and supportive family to help me cope up with this sudden change that was both physical and psychological.

Amidst such a chaotic life, reality dawned on me once my infant turned six weeks. The first vaccination was due and the nervous mother in me shadowed the rational individual that I was normally known to be. It was at my husband’s insistence that we decided to visit the Pediatrician. As I spoke my heart out, the empathetic and knowledgeable doctor emphasized the importance of vaccination in the life of a newborn baby.

He spoke about the functionality of vaccines in protecting babies against life-threatening diseases like Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Viral Diarrhea, Polio and Haemophilus Influenza B.He went on to elaborate how immunization helped in curbing complications related to diseases that could lead to convulsions, meningitis, encephalopathy, and death. While I was convinced about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, the Pediatrician was patient enough to dig deeper into my worries about the pain related to injections. It was at this point that he introduced me to the new concept of an acellular vaccine with less pain.

I was shocked to find that as per a recent report, one of every four child-deaths (high infant-mortality rate) in India was caused by pneumonia and diarrhea, two infections that could be controlled and prevented through immunization. In the last couple of years, I researched to understand how the benefits of vaccination extended much beyond the prevention of specific diseases in individuals to enable a healthy and fit future for societies and nations. Vaccination in the long term indeed saves time and money while also taking care of the weakest members of society.

Every parent wants to protect their child from all kinds of untoward instances. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness and the spread of misinformation on social media often lead them towards decisions that might not be favorable for the child’s health and future. In the course of staying updated with the vaccination schedule for my now 4-year-old son, most of my misconceptions related to immunization have been replaced by research-backed information. Today, I can gladly say that I have chosen a healthy future for my son as well as the future generation by deciding to protect him with the shield of immunization.

What’s #YourCareQuotient? How much do you understand your child when it comes to sleep patterns, feeding, and vaccination? Take the easy, interactive quiz that guides you and get the childcare guide now. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog content are independent and unbiased views of solely the blogger. This is a part of the public awareness initiative supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of the blog. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information.

Preservative-free vaccines for a healthier future

In an era of the internet and global exposure, an individual has multiple means of assessing the available options to fathom the consequences of their choices. When my son was born, both my husband and I wanted to check every aspect of the mandatory vaccines that were to be injected once he reached the milestones in life. It was our pediatrician who enlightened us with an in-depth analysis of the need for vaccination in children. But there was a nagging feeling about the side-effects of preservatives in vaccines after we came to know about mercury being one of its components. We carried out a detailed check about the need for preservatives in vaccines before going for a detailed discussion with the pediatrician.

From the available sources, we understood that preservatives were compounds that killed or prevented the growth of microorganisms like fungus and bacteria. In case the vaccine was accidentally contaminated due to repeated needle puncture of multi-dose vials, the preservatives prevented microbial growth. Thimerosal, (approx 50% mercury by weight), has one of the most widely used preservatives in vaccines.

In 1998, there was a study in Britain where a Doctor claimed about the MMR vaccine causing autism in children. Thimerosal was one such ingredient that was considered to be responsible for this hazard. This study led to such an uproar than many parents shunned vaccines. The results were proved to be incorrect due to the small sample size and various other conditions not taken into consideration for a conclusive deduction. Eventually, the FDA, CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine had to declare the usage of Thimerosal in vaccines as safe to eradicate the fear and bring the vaccination process back on track.

Yet, one cannot deny the fact that mercury is known for its toxicity. While there is no conclusive proof for its harmful effects as a preservative, no study has also proved for certain that it is safe. This is what makes the case of preservative-free vaccines stronger.

In the last few years, Thimerosal has been removed from most of the vaccines used in developed countries. However, it is still used in vaccines meant for developing countries. While the lack of awareness is one of the reasons, the fact that vaccines are sold to developing countries in multi-dose vials at a lower cost-per-dose also makes them a preferred choice. It is assumed that single-dose vials of vaccines (preservative-free) are not economical for developing countries, both in terms of the cost of vaccines per unit and cold chain requirements. But these assumptions might not be based on the actual scenarios in these countries.

Multi-dose vials have the added advantage of occupying less cold-storage space per dose. This aspect is overshadowed by a shocking percentage of vaccine wastage. Single-dose vials become more appealing and effective in terms of simplifying inventory logistics and vaccine tracking. In a developing country like India, one of the strongest reasons for switching to single-dose vials in the future could be the process of cost-effective manufacturing of these ampoules which makes them affordable.

Based on our discussion, the pediatrician agreed to our choice of a preservative-free vaccine. It took us an additional week to comply with the vaccination schedule but we decided to stick by our conviction of a healthy future for our son. While the findings of research-based studies related to the effects of mercury in vaccines have been vague and full of conflicts, we consider it advisable to be better safe than sorry. Hence, if the option of a preservative-free vaccine is available for a child, it is always recommended to consult with the pediatrician and opt for the same.

What’s #YourCareQuotient? How much do you understand your child when it comes to sleep patterns, feeding, and vaccination? Take the easy, interactive quiz that guides you and get the childcare guide now.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog content are independent and unbiased views of solely the blogger. This is a part of the public awareness initiative supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of the blog. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information.

References –

https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/safety-availability-biologics/thimerosal-and-vaccines

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-thimerosal-color-office.pdf

https://vaccineindia.org/article/thiomersal

https://ijme.in/articles/commentary-controversies-surrounding-mercury-in-vaccines-autism-denial-as-impediment-to-universal-immunisation/?galley=html

What it means to be a woman in India!

Today morning, I woke up to multiple messages related to International Women’s Day. 25 percent off on groceries!’ ’10 percent discount on flowers!’ ‘No making charges on diamond jewelry,’ among others.

And at that moment, I realized that the March Madness had begun. Until three years ago, March Madness for me usually began with a gentle reminder from my reporting authority in the banking sector. Or with an aggressive message from the Boss. They would both remind me that after the end of the financial year, there would be an appraisal process to keep my blood pressure and stress levels high.

As a writer, now, the reasons for stress and frustration have shifted reasons but they have not shifted loyalties like my account’s financial statement. Today, a different kind of seething anger gripped my soul. I wanted to question each of these brands and ask them if that is all Women’s Day meant to them.

And yet, all their propositions felt better than any of the headlines, I’ve woken up to in the past few months- violence, moral policing and gender stereotyping. In a bid to highlight the daily struggles we face as women, I decided to take everyone through the stages of being a female in this country.

Stage one- the birth

Since you are a girl, you don’t get to be born. You are aborted in your mother’s womb, itself. In case, you do manage to make your way to the world, you are either dumped in a dustbin or choked to death. Because what are girls, if not unwanted responsibilities?

Click HERE to read about the 11 stages of being a woman in modern India as I pour my heart out in this piece on women’s web. Because we have, for ages and across generations, fought for ourselves and no matter how much fear you instill in us, remember, we will rise. Like the phoenix from the ashes, we will rise.

I pledge to protect you, my dear son, and a WHO prequalified vaccine helps me keep my promise

22nd September 2015 was when I entered into the new phase of motherhood. As I held the tiny bundle of joy in my arms after a difficult C-section, everything else felt inconsequential. In a while, the pediatrician came for his round of duty and this was when he spoke about the importance of vaccination for newborn babies. My husband, also a doctor by profession, listened carefully as the pediatrician explained the vaccination chart to us. But I was crestfallen since I couldn’t even bear the thought of my newborn being pricked by a needle.

The next couple of weeks were all about getting adjusted to this new schedule of life. My focus area had shifted to understanding the importance of WHO-recommended exclusive breastfeeding for six months and surviving the state of being perennially sleep-deprived. I was lucky to be surrounded by an understanding and supportive family to help me cope up with this sudden change that was not just physical but psychological as well.

Amidst such a chaotic routine, reality dawned on me as my infant turned six weeks. The first vaccination was due and the nervous mother in me overtook the rational individual that I was normally known to be. It was at my husband’s insistence that we decided to visit the pediatrician. As I spoke my heart out, the empathetic and knowledgeable doctor emphasized the importance of vaccination in the life of a newborn baby.

He discussed with us in length about how vaccines functioned in protecting babies against life-threatening diseases like Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Polio, etc. The pediatrician was patient enough to dig deeper into my worries about having to inflict pain on my boy with multiple Injections. It was at this point that he mentioned the concept of combination vaccines which greatly reduce the number of shots that a baby requires. He spoke about how the acellular aspect of this vaccine is what makes it a less painful option while the vaccines before it led to a lot of discomfort and pain in babies.

Continue reading “I pledge to protect you, my dear son, and a WHO prequalified vaccine helps me keep my promise”

Real life horror stories of 6 Domestic Abuse survivors – my article trending on Women’s Web

As per a 2018 article by News18, every third woman in India suffers from domestic violence. However, the reporting percentage for such abuse is just 29 percent in rural India while for urban India, it is at 23 percent. This acts as evidence of the fact that a lot of women are still suffering in silence. Some of the major reasons for this behavior include fear of a judgmental society, lack of support from family and financial dependence on the spouse. Yet, six firebrand women chose to defy all odds, put an end to their suffering, and lead a life free from toxic masculinity. Neither was it an easy decision to take nor was the path towards their freedom smooth. But, they rose from the ashes like a phoenix, with their friends, family or colleagues acting as their support system. Holding on to their instinct of survival, educational qualifications, and financial independence, they marched on with the belief that they deserved better in life.

Meet Kasturi Ghatak, Inderjit Kaur, Anita Jain, Puspanjalee Das Dutta, Mamon Sen (name changed), Snigdha (name changed) – women whose stories need to be told to the world for they are role models in breaking societal stereotypes and standing against violence amidst all odds.

Trending on the Women's Web platform
Trending on the Women’s Web platform

Please click here for the link to the full article on Domestic Violence that has garnered more than 7000 views in just 5 days and has been trending on the Women’s Web site since published. This piece has also given me the honor of getting been featured as one of the four authors of the week on the Women’s Web platform.

Author of the week @ womensweb

Beauty lies in the grey matter of my brain


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‘Hey Fatso, how much do you eat every day?’

‘Fatso, if you dance, the stage will break down’

‘So fatty, do you purchase two tickets while taking a flight because I am sure you don’t fit into a single seat?’

‘Why is your son so thin? Do you eat away all the food in the house?”

Ah, aren’t these the usual taunts that every girl on the heavier side of the weighing scale has heard at least once in life? Our society has set such ridiculous standards in terms of what gets labeled as beautiful and what goes washed down as ugly that women have been pressurized to follow the norms to perfection since eternity. If one is on the left side of the scale measuring the perfect hourglass figure and the right kind of fair skin, one is believed to be too thin and too dark. However, if one is on the right side of this perfect scale, she is marked as too fat and too pale skinned. To add fuel to the fire, there are corporate houses whose money-making strategy seem to revolve around making young girls believe that the biggest achievement in their lives is to be fair and beautiful or have a skin without acne, pimple, and marks. And some celebrities validate such irrational expectations by being part of such endorsements. There are exceptions though like the handful of celebrities who refuse to be associated with such products or organizations like Naturals Salon who emphasize the true beauty of a woman and also help them become financially independent through employment.

I have always wanted to write about my experiences related to body shaming. After all, it is never a smooth ride for a fat girl in our society.  From my experiences, I have understood that most of the times, the general perception is to be judged based on how one looks. So I might have earned two post-graduate degrees or have a proven track record of leadership skills, but people will still be more interested in or concerned about my growing waistline. Strangely as a toddler, being chubby was considered to be cute. Unfortunately, it also gave people the liberty to pull my cheeks because who believes in taking consent from a child or even her parents! As I grew up, the words kept changing from plump to healthy and then overweight, fat, fatty and obese.

Continue reading “Beauty lies in the grey matter of my brain”

The skeletons tumbled out as I chose to speak the truth

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I grew up in a household where speaking the truth was not just encouraged but diligently practiced. Baba always believed that when one speaks the truth, one always stays true to their conscience. Besides the stated facts always stay the same. Ma had the same version personalized when she had asked me to always be the first one to let them know the truth, even if it was something that might leave them appalled. Such principles shaped my nature and character in such a way that I grew extremely close and comfortable with my parents. I knew that I was believed in my house and was one of the strongest factors that built my confidence. The only not so likable attribute that I developed because of speaking the truth was my inability to sugar-coat my words or be diplomatic in my approach.

#MeToo was a movement started last year by Tarana Burke that exposed monsters like Harvey Weinstein. Since then, there have been skeletons tumbling out of closets everywhere. However, it is only recently that this movement gained mass momentum in India after Tanushree Dutta called out Nana Patekar in a decade-old case of harassment. And for the past few days, there have been stories about media personalities, journalists, writers and stand up comics. People like Utsav Chakraborty, Gautam Adhikari, Kiran Nagarkar, Kailash Kher and many others have been called out by women who have faced harassment in their hands. India has finally woken up to #MeTooIndia and #TimeUp movement.

Amidst all this, I realize how pathetic the state of affairs is in our country. Is there any girl who has not faced harassment at any level ever? Right from being groped in crowded buses, receiving unsolicited pictures of private parts, getting masturbated at and being felt up, the list seems to be endless. Beyond a point, every girl has learned to keep her sixth sense in the maximum alert mode and be armed with a device for protection like a pepper spray. Even I have had the most horrible experiences. Most of these abusers were random people whose perverted minds derived pleasure from such sickening acts. But what does one do when this kind of sexual predator lurks in their closest circle!

S has been a family friend for ages. His father had been my Baba’s friend and mentor. Despite the huge age difference, I grew up calling S as Dada (elder brother in Bengali). I had met him many times as a child and always found him to be affectionate and caring towards me. So, I was taken aback when I felt his hands brush my chest area on the pretext of picking up a paper from the table. I was barely thirteen then. But I was so sure that it had happened by mistake that I forgot about it soon. Unfortunately, this started becoming a pattern very soon. I met him during family functions and festivals and each time he made me so uncomfortable that I started avoiding him. The mere sight of him would make me run indoors. Sadly, my parents loved him like their own son and they could never understand my sudden disappearances. The hide and seek game went on for another two years till it was my board exams and I was excused from attending all events until I completed my exams.

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Continue reading “The skeletons tumbled out as I chose to speak the truth”