Childhood Immunisation

Why do we vaccinate our Children?
How do immunisations work?
What impact have immunisations had on disease?
When is it safe for my child to have vaccinations?
What vaccinations will my child have?
Vaccination side effects
More Information

Why do we vaccinate our children?

Why do we vaccinate our children?In the first 4 years of their lives, it seems that babies / children have to have a lot of vaccinations, with the majority being in their 1st year.

The reason they have to have so many vaccinations / immunisations at such a young age is because babies and children’s immune systems are not fully developed, which makes them very vulnerable to catching bugs which can cause serious diseases. The types of infections we vaccinate against are life threatening and can result in death or severe disability if an unvaccinated child was to catch them.

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How do immunisations work?

Our body's natural defence against infection is called immunity. When we get an infection, our bodies produce chemicals called antibodies to fight it. After an infection we are usually immune to the bug (usually a virus or bacterium) and the immunity may last for life.

We can cause the same immunity, without getting the full-blown disease or infection, by using immunisations, also called vaccinations. Immunisations, which are usually given by injection, work by introducing a very dilute version of the disease, or an inactive part of the bug into our bodies. They don't actually cause us to have the disease. Our bodies create antibodies in response to the immunisation, protecting us from the disease.

Children will need more than one dose of some vaccines. This is because as your child’s immune system developed we need to make sure that it maintains immunity as it develops. Sometimes, immunity can decrease as your child gets older and booster vaccines are needed to keep us protected.

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What impact have immunisations had on disease?

In the UK, vaccinations have been used since the 1940s, and their impact is clear to see. For example, in 1915 there were about 60,000 known cases of the disease diphtheria. The vaccination was introduced in 1942, when there were 41,404 known cases and 1,827 deaths from the disease. By 1946 the death rate had dropped to 472.

These days diphtheria is a rare disease. There have been 13 cases of diphtheria in the last 10 years and just 2 deaths.. However, even though many dangerous illnesses are now rare, they can still spread to unimunised children. Public health experts say that high levels of take-up are needed to prevent these diseases from spreading widely and causing epidemics.

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When is it safe for my child to have vaccinations?

It's natural to feel concerned about your baby having his immunisations. You may not like the idea of your baby having injections, or you may be worried about the safety of vaccines.

The immunisation programme in the UK is developed by a large group of experts and doctors and only includes vaccines which are proven to be both safe and effective. All vaccines are thoroughly tested before they are given a license which means they can be used. All vaccines are continually monitored to make sure they are safe and effective in protecting your child against the diseases that could harm him.

When is it safe for my child to have vaccinations

Your child/baby is safe to have their immunisations if they have a cough, cold, runny nose, upset tummy, headache etc.

The only reason they cannot have their immunisations is if they have a temperature or are on antibiotics.

Sometimes, extra care may be needed when your child is having his immunisation. To be on the safe side, your child may have his injection in hospital if he/she has:

  •  A severe egg allergy

  • A family history of convulsions (seizures) or allergic reactions after immunisations

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What vaccinations will my child have?

Your baby will have a primary course on immunisations, as follows:-

8 weeks old
1st immunisations (2 injections in babies legs):

  • Pneumococcal vaccination, this helps protect against Pneumonia and a form of bacteria that can cause meningitis
  • 5 in1 Vaccination (1st of a course of 3) this protects against Haemophilus (Hib), Whooping cough, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio. All these illnesses if caught are potentially life threatening.

12 weeks old
2nd immunisations (2 injections in babies legs):

  • Meningitis C, this will help protect your child against Meningitis C
  • 5 in1 Vaccination (2nd dose)

16 weeks old
3rd immunizations and the last of the primary course (3 injections in babies’ legs):

  • Pneumococcal
  • Meningitis C
  • 5 in1 Vaccination (3rd dose)

12 and a half months old
Total of 3 injections are given:

  • 2 Boosters of the Hib, meningitis C and pneumococcal
  • 1st MMR vaccination are given

Pre school boosters, from age 3years 4mths
A month before the child starts school (2 injections in child’s arms):

  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping cough and polio booster
  • MMR booster.

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Vaccination Side effects

All vaccinations can cause side effects, these are usually short lived and mild. If your child has any allergies you should let your GP / Nurse / Health visitor doing the immunisations know before they immunise.

Classic side effects are:

  • Temperature - some children / babies can develop a slight temperature after an immunisation, and is a sign that the immune system is responding to the vaccine. If this does occur, strip the child / baby off, give them cool fluids to drink regularly and keep them dosed on paracetamol as per dosage on bottle. A temperature can last a day or 2 but usually subsides quickly. If for any reason you are concerned, seek medical advice.
  • Lumps - children and babies can develop a lump up to the size of a 10pence piece at the injection site. The lump may appear hard and red and may last for several days, in some children it can last several weeks; this is nothing to be concerned about, and the lump will eventually go. If for any reason you are concerned, seek medical advice
  • Grumpy / Tiredness - some children and babies become tired and grumpy after their immunizations, this again is perfectly normal and you should let your child / baby sleep if they want to. Their bodies are forming antibodies ready to fight infection - this is hard work for little ones! If your child becomes lifeless or you are unable to wake them, seek medical advice immediately.

*A Child / Baby can not be responsible for their own immunisation, and are vulnerable if not fully protected. It is up to a parent or carer to ensure their child receives the right immunisation at the right time. Your child's health is in your hands.

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MMR vaccination

MMR is the combined vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

MMR VaccinationsSince the vaccine was introduced in 1988, the number of children who develop these illnesses has fallen to an all-time low.

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious, common conditions that can have serious complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness. They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage.

The success of the MMR vaccine means that in the UK, cases of measles are rare.

However, in recent years the number of cases has risen. For example, the Health Protection Agency reported a surge in measles cases in England and Wales for the first half of 2011. A total of 496 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported from January to May 2011 in children and young adults, compared with just 374 cases for the whole of 2010.

It is thought that the rise in measles cases is due to parents not getting their child vaccinated with the MMR vaccine, probably because of speculation linking MMR to autism. Any suggested link between MMR and autism has now been completely disproven.

As well as young children needing the MMR vaccine, women who are thinking about getting pregnant may also need to be vaccinated if they have low levels of rubella antibodies or they haven't had a rubella vaccination or MMR.

Also needing the vaccine are people born between 1970 and 1979 who may have only been vaccinated against measles, as well as people born between 1980 to 1990 who may not be protected against mumps.

Check with your GP if you're not sure whether you've had rubella or MMR.

Is the MMR safe?

There was some controversy in the last decade about the MMR vaccine and autism following a study published by The Lancet in 1998 by Dr Andrew Wakefield. He claimed that his initial findings appeared to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease.

However, Andrew Wakefield’s work has since been completely discredited. Wakefield failed to declare a number of conflicting interests and his work was found to be unethical. Andrew Wakefield has since been struck-off and is no longer allowed to practice medicine.

Subsequent studies during the last eight years have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism or bowel disease.

There have been no studies which have shown any link between MMR and autism, and many studies that have shown that there is no link. Many millions of children receive the MMR vaccine every year despite tens of millions of children around the world receiving the vaccine every year with no bad effects.

Single vaccines

Single vaccines are not routinely given in the UK. Single measles and rubella vaccines are not available through the NHS and these vaccines are not licensed for use in the UK. There is no mumps single vaccine currently available.

Single vaccines means your child will need six separate injections, instead of just two. These are spread out over three years which means your child will not be fully protected for a long time and would put your child children at risk of developing the illness in the meantime.

How much damage has the MMR scare done?

The scare caused MMR vaccination rates to fall sharply. When less people are immunised, more people catch the disease, this resulted in a large rise in the number of cases of measles and mumps. Since the research which casued the scare has been discredited, vaccination rates have climbed again in recent years.

There have been a number of measles outbreaks in the last year across Europe, in the UK and locally. Children and young adults were most affected. All the confirmed cases of measles were amongst those who had not had MMR vaccines.

MMR is safe and very effective at protecting your child against potentially killer diseases.
MMR Vaccinations 

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More information

If you would ike to read more information about immunisations and the immunisations currently offered in England, please visit the links below:

NHS Choices - Vaccinations
Department of Health - Immunisations

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