Why vaccinate your children?
As a parent, you may not like seeing your baby or child being given an injection. However, vaccination is an important step in protecting your child against a range of serious and potentially fatal diseases.
Vaccinations are quick, safe and extremely effective. Once your child has been vaccinated against a disease, their body can fight it more effectively. If a child isn't vaccinated, they will have an increased risk of catching the illness.
If more parents have their children vaccinated, then more children in the community will be protected against an illness. This lowers the chance of a disease outbreak.
The only time that it's safe to stop vaccinating children against an illness is when the disease has been wiped out worldwide. For example, when every country had eliminated smallpox in 1979, vaccination against the disease was stopped. It's hoped that polio will soon be eradicated and that measles will follow.
Can you overload a child's immune system?
You may be concerned that too many vaccines at a young age could "overload" your child's immune system, but this really isn't the case. Studies have shown that vaccines don't weaken a child's immune system.
As soon as a baby is born, they come into contact with a huge number of different bacteria and viruses every day, and their immune system copes well.
The bacteria and viruses used in vaccines are weakened or killed, and there are far fewer of them than the natural bugs that babies and children come into contact with. In fact, if a child was given 11 vaccines all at the same time, it would only use a thousandth of their immune system!
What are the side effects of vaccination?
All medicines have side effects. However, vaccines are among the safest and the benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the risk of side effects.
When we're considering a vaccination for ourselves or our children, it's natural to think about the potential side effects. What you need to do is balance the risks against the benefits.
Most side effects from vaccination are mild and short-lived. It's quite common to have redness or swelling around the injection site, but this soon goes away. Younger children or babies may be a bit irritable or unwell, or have a slight temperature. Again, this usually goes away within one or two days.
In much rarer cases, some people have an allergic reaction soon after a vaccination. This is usually a rash or itching that affects part or all of the body. The GPs and nurses who give the vaccine are trained in how to treat this.
On very rare occasions, a severe allergic reaction may happen within a few minutes of the vaccination. This is called an anaphylactic reaction. It can lead to breathing difficulties and, in some cases, collapse.
Remember that anaphylactic reactions are extremely rare (fewer than one in a million). Vaccination staff are trained to deal with this, and these reactions are completely reversible if treated promptly.
Vaccination versus medicine
Vaccination is different from giving medicine to an unwell child to make them better. The benefits of vaccination are invisible. Your child won't become ill with measles or end up in intensive care with meningitis C.
It may be tempting to say "no" to vaccination and "leave it to nature". However, deciding not to vaccinate your child puts them at risk of catching a range of potentially serious, even fatal, diseases.
In reality, having a vaccination is much safer than not having one. They're not 100% effective in every child, but they're the best defence against the epidemics that used to kill or permanently disable millions of children and adults.
- Don't have a vaccination when you're ill
FACT - you should postpone your child's jab if they are ill and have a fever (high temperature).
- Don't have a vaccination if you have an allergy
FACT - your child shouldn't have a vaccine if they've had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction (a severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of the vaccine or an ingredient in it.
- Don't have a "live" vaccine if you have a weakened immune system
Live vaccines are ones that contain the virus or bacteria they're supposed to protect against, albeit in a weakened form.
It's a FACT that your child shouldn't have live vaccines, such as BCG (tuberculosis vaccination) or MMR, if:
- your child is taking high-dose steroid tablets, or is taking lower doses either alongside other drugs or over a long time. If you’re not sure, check with a GP
- your child is being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or has had these treatments within the last six months
- your child has had an organ transplant and is on immunosuppressant drugs
- your child has had a bone marrow transplant and finished all immunosuppressive therapy within the last 12 months
- your child's immune system is lowered. If you’re not sure, check with a GP
- It is a MYTH that you have to avoid or delay your child's vaccination if they have a mild illness without a fever, such as a cough or cold, or if they have an allergy, such as asthma, hay feveror eczema.
- It is a MYTH that you have to avoid or delay your baby's vaccinations if they were premature.
- It is a MYTH that you have to avoid your baby's vaccinations if they have a history of febrile seizures or convulsions (related to fever) or epilepsy, or there's a family history of such conditions
- It's a MYTH that vaccinations can overload a baby's immune system. In fact, only a tiny fraction of your baby's immune system is used by childhood vaccines, and they come into far more bugs in their daily life. This video explains why vaccines don't weaken your child's immune system.
- It's a MYTH that homeopathy can be used as an alternative to vaccinations to protect children against potentially serious infections. In fact, there's no evidence that homeopathy can protect children against disease and illnesses.
- It's a MYTH that it is unsafe to take your baby swimming around the time of a vaccination. In fact, you can take your baby swimming at any time before and after their vaccinations.
Here's a checklist of the vaccines that are routinely offered to everyone in the UK for free on the NHS, and the age at which you should ideally have them.
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children) given as a 5-in-1 single jab known as DTaP/IPV/Hib
- Pneumococcal infection
- 5-in-1, second dose (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
- Meningitis C
- 5-in-1, third dose (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
- Pneumococcal infection, second dose
- Meningitis C, second dose
Between 12 and 13 months:
- Meningitis C, third dose
- Hib, fourth dose (Hib/MenC given as a single jab)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), given as a single jab
- Pneumococcal infection, third dose
3 years and 4 months, or soon after:
- MMR second jab
- Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio (DtaP/IPV), given as a 4-in-1 pre-school booster
Around 12-13 years:
- Cervical cancer (HPV) vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer (girls only): three jabs given within six months
Around 13-18 years:
- Diphtheria, tetanus and polio booster (Td/IPV), given as a single jab
65 and over:
- Flu (every year)
HPA Childrens Vaccination Schedule
Click here for the recommended HPA vaccination schedule
Seasonal Flu Vaccination
Influenza – flu – is a highly infectious and potentially serious illness caused by influenza viruses. Each year the make-up of the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the influenza viruses that the World Health Organization decide are most likely to be circulating in the coming winter.
Regular immunisation (vaccination) is given free of charge to the following at-risk people, to protect them from seasonal flu:
- people aged 65 or over,
- people with a serious medical condition
- people living in a residential or nursing home
- the main carers for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer becomes ill
- healthcare or social care professionals directly involved in patient care, and
- those who work in close contact with poultry, such as chickens.
Pregnant women & the Flu Vaccination
It is recommended that all pregnant women should have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're in. This is because there is good evidence that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu, particularly from the H1N1 strain.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine can be safely and effectively given during any trimester of pregnancy. The vaccine does not carry risks for either the mother or baby. In fact, studies have shown that mothers who have had the vaccine while pregnant pass some protection to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.
These links all come from trusted resources but if you are unsure about these or any other medical matters please contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice