Vitamin A helps maintain the surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, intestinal and urinary tracts. It also helps the immune system to resist severe infections.
Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a public health problem in many countries, including Ethiopia. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections, particularly measles, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Improving the vitamin A status of children aged 6−59 months can reduce measles and diarrhoea mortality rates by 50% and 33% respectively, and can decrease overall under-five mortality by 23%.
Thus, routine bi-annual (every six months) supplementation of vitamin A is recommended for all children aged 6−59 months of age. You should give one dose if the child has not received a dose within the last six months. The first dose is usually given at nine months of age together with the measles vaccine, and it should then be given every six months up to five years of age. Table 12.2 sets out the correct dose according to the child's age.
Table 12.2 Vitamin A dosage for children six months up to five years of age. (Source: IMNCI Chart Booklet, FMOH Ethiopia, 2008)
|AGE||VITAMIN A CAPSULES (to be given once every six months)|
|200,000 IU||100,000 IU||50,000 IU|
|6 months up to 12 months||½ capsule||1 capsule||2 capsules|
|12 months up to 5 years||1 capsule||2 capsules||4 capsules|
To administer vitamin A, cut across the nipple of the capsule with a clean instrument (surgical blade, razor blade, scissors or sharp knife). If the vitamin A capsule does not have a nipple, pierce the capsule with a clean needle. Squeeze the capsule gently so drops of vitamin A fall onto the child's tongue. Record the date each time you give vitamin A to a child. This is important. If you give repeated doses of vitamin A in a short period of time (in less than six months), there is danger of an overdose.