Childhood Vaccinations - Essential information

Measles outbreaks happen when not enough children have been vaccinated.

Measles can be a very serious disease, leading to ear and chest infections, fits, diarrhoea, and dame to the brain. Measles can kill.

Your child is at risk of measles if he or she hasn’t had the MMR vaccination.

2 doses of MMR vaccine are needed to get the best protection.

If your child is due to have had 2 doses of MMR but has not yet received them, no matter what age they are, you should contact your GP to get them vaccinated as soon as possible.

If you can’t remember if your child has had any, 1 or 2 doses of MMR vaccine, check his or her personal child health record (the Red Book). If this doesn’t help, speak to your GP.

If you don’t know how many doses your child has had, it’s better to have 2 does of MMR vaccine now rather than risk leaving them unprotected.

We are well aware of the importance of car seats, stair gates and other ways to keep our children safe. Another way to protect them is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations at the time they are recommended.  

Immunisations can save your child’s life: Infectious diseases continue to cause significant harm to children across the world, with some even dying as a result.

Vaccinations are very safe and effective: Vaccines are only NHS approved for children after long and careful development and testing by researchers and doctors. Vaccines will involve some discomfort such as localised 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 protect against. Fever can be expected after any vaccination, but is more common with the Meningitis B vaccine. Giving paracetamol with or soon after Meningitis 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, including severe allergic reactions, are very rare.

Immunisation protects others you care about: Some babies are too young to receive certain vaccines, whilst others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to existing conditions including severe allergies, weakened immune systems or other reasons. To help keep them safe until they can receive vaccinations themselves, it is important that anyone they have close contact with are fully immunised.

In a nutshell, vaccines:

Do

  • Protect you and your child from many serious and potentially deadly diseases
  • Protect other people in your community – by helping to stop diseases spreading to people who cannot have vaccines
  • Undergo rigorous safety testing before being introduced – they’re also constantly monitored for side effects after being introduced
  • Sometimes cause mild side effects that will not last long – you may feel a bit unwell and have a sore arm for 2 or 3 days
  • Reduce or even get rid of some diseases – if enough people are vaccinated

Do not

  • Do not cause autism – studies have found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism
  • Do not overload or weaken the immune system – it's safe to give children and adults several vaccines at a time and this reduces the amount of injections needed
  • Do not cause allergies or any other conditions – all the current evidence tells us that vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating
  • Do not contain mercury (thiomersal)
  • Do not contain any ingredients that cause harm in such small amounts – but speak to your doctor if you have any known allergies such as to eggs or gelatine

Click here for more information from the NHS about why vaccines are safe and important.

The current UK vaccination schedule, setting out which vaccination should be given at what age, can be found in the accordion below. For each vaccination, there is a link to the NHS website which explains what they're for and where you can get them done.

For the flu vaccine, children in Reception to year 11 will receive the flu vaccine in school by the Community and School Age Immunisation Service team. However, younger children and those at risk will be given the vaccine by their GP.

Anyone eligible for Covid or flu can book using the national booking system (NBS National Booking Service - NHS Digital )

2 months:
3 months:
4 months:
12-13 months:
2 years to 11 years (For specific conditions, children under 6 months will need it):
3 years and 4 months:
12-13 years (boys and girls):
  • HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer and genital warts - two injections given 6-24 months apart
14 years and over:

 

All children between 2 and 11 years (year 6) of age should receive the children's 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 and can cause serious complications. For people at risk of complications e.g. grandparents or other vulnerable household members, 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

Unfortunately, as these vaccine preventable infections become less and less common, social media coverage on vaccines increasingly focuses on their side effects and adverse reactions. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the MMR vaccine is associated with an increased risk of autism. Misinformation about this has directly resulted in unnecessary parental anxiety and a significant drop in children having the MMR vaccine. Unfortunately, we are now seeing an increasing number of cases of measles in the UK. This has resulted in severe illness and even deaths in a number of adults and children. Even if you think your child will be protected by herd immunity (other people being vaccinated around them), this is no longer the case with MMR because far less than the required 95% of the population are being vaccinated. In addition, if your child was to travel to another country (even when they are an adult) or come into contact with someone with measles who is visiting from abroad, they will be completely unprotected and may contract the infection. Unfortunately, measles is highly infectious and is spread by water droplets, coughed or sneezed by infected individuals.

For more information about the safety of the MMR vaccine and parent stories, click here

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).

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

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