Human immune systems do not start to function till about 8 weeks – after a full term birth . .
Doctors from Winchester report four cases where premature babies developed severe apnoea (failure to breathe) within 24 hours of having diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) and influenza (Hib) immunisation. They had to be resuscitated, and one needed to be incubated and ventilated.
The authors suggest that the risk of severe apnoea (failure to breathe) after immunisation may be as high as 8% in babies born before 30 weeks. Neonatal units usually immunise premature babies at around 8 weeks after delivery, but it may be wise to delay this.
The risk may not be only in premature babies. We know of cases where parents have been accused of child abuse when they reported apnoea attacks in their babies. But they believe the cause was recent immunisation.
- Slack M, Shapira DE, Severe apnoeas following immunisation in premature infants, Arch. Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed, 1999;81: F67-F68.