The Essentials about Childhood Vaccination

You want to do what is best for your child. You know about the importance of car seats, stair gates and other ways to keep them safe. But, did you know that one of the best ways to protect them is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations? 

  • Immunizations can save your child’s life: some diseases continue to harm or kill children across the world. Don’t let your child be one of them.
  • Vaccinations are very safe and effective: vaccines are only licensed for children after long and careful development and testing by researchers and doctors. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent. Fever can be expected after any vaccination, but is more common with the Men B vaccine.  Giving paracetamol soon after Men B vaccination – and not waiting for a fever to develop – will reduce the risk of your child having a fever. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare.
  • Immunization protects others you care about: some babies are too young to be protected by vaccination and others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukaemia, or other reasons. To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children are fully immunized.  This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.

The current UK vaccination schedule

2 months:                        
3 months: 
4 months: 
12-13 months:
2 years to 7 years:
3 years and 4 months:
Pre-school:
  • 4-in-1 booster  (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio) 
Teenagers:   

 

Keep up-to-date with your child’s vaccinations using this vaccination planner.

Should your child receive the annual influenza vaccine?

All children between 2 and 7 years of age should receive the nasal flu vaccine. This is not only to stop them getting unwell with flu, but also to stop them spreading flu to other members of your family.

There are other groups of children with long-term health conditions that should have the flu vaccine every year. This includes children with weakened immune systems (including those on steroids or with problems with their spleen), chronic heart or lung problems, diabetes, asthma, chronic kidney or liver disease. It is especially important that these children are vaccinated because they have the greatest risk of becoming very unwell if they get flu. Children aged from 6 months to 2 years who are at risk from complications of flu should be given the inactivated (injected) flu vaccine rather than the intranasal vaccine.

Common myths about flu and the flu vaccine

'Flu isn't serious, so my child doesn't need a flu vaccine' and 'My children never get ill, so they don't need the vaccine'

It is tempting to think that flu is no worse than a bad cold, but in fact it is a serious disease which can infect anyone. For people at risk of complications, flu can lead to hospitalisation or even death. Flu leads to hundreds of thousands of GP visits and tens of thousands of hospital stays a year.

 

'Last year my children had the flu vaccine but they got ill anyway, so it doesn't work'

No vaccine is 100% effective, including the flu vaccine. However, the vaccine usually prevents about half of all flu cases. For people who get flu after being vaccinated, the disease is often less severe than it would have been. It is important to remember that the flu vaccine only protects against flu, but there are other illnesses which have flu-like symptoms which you can still catch after getting the flu vaccine. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so you could still catch flu if you are exposed to the virus during this time. Getting vaccinated as early as possible in the season can help to prevent this.

                                         

Use this video to explain to your child why they are having the flu vaccine 

Frequently asked questions about vaccines

It’s normal to have questions about any medication that you’re giving to your child and vaccines are no exception. The most common questions that parents ask are:

Why should I have my child vaccinated?

Won’t herd immunity protect them? Herd immunity does not protect against all diseases. The best example of this is tetanus, which is caught from bacteria in the environment, not from other people who have the disease. In addition, for herd immunity to work properly, most people in the population need to be vaccinated. There are low vaccination rates in some parts of the UK and in some communities, as well as in many overseas countries. This means that if your child is not vaccinated, it is quite likely that many of the people they come into contact with will not be vaccinated either. So if one person gets an infectious disease, it can spread quickly through all the unvaccinated people in the group (this happened during the 2013 measles outbreak in Wales).

A guide to immunisations for children upto 5 years of age is available in various languages - click here

 

Won’t having several vaccines at the same time overload my baby’s immune system?


Parents often worry that a child’s immune system will not be able to cope with several vaccines at once.  In fact, even a tiny baby’s immune system can cope easily. Starting from birth, babies come into contact with millions of germs every day. It is estimated that the human body contains enough white blood cells to cope with thousands of vaccines at any one time. If a child was given 11 vaccines at once, it would only use about a thousandth of the immune system. It is not a good idea to delay vaccinations to ‘spread the load’, because it leaves the child unprotected against serious diseases for longer.


How do I know that vaccines are safe?

All vaccines go through a long and thorough process of development and testing before they are licensed for use. Vaccines have to be tested on adults and children separately before they can be used for different age groups; this is because vaccines that work in adults may not work so well in children. No vaccines are tested on children before they have been fully tested on adults. Click here for more information about vaccine safety and side effects.

Click here for more information about common questions, concerns and comments that people have about vaccines 

 

FIVE

Reasons to vaccinate your child against flu


Click here!