Childhood immunisations protects against 17 serious diseases
Research from around the world shows that immunisation is the safest way to protect your child’s health.
Parents often have questions about why their baby or child needs to be vaccinated, especially when we don’t hear about the diseases their child is being vaccinated against.
It is because of the effective immunisation programmes in the UK, the number of children catching serious diseases is now very low. But if children do not continue to be immunised, the diseases will come back.
Diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza… these are just some of the serious infectious diseases your baby and child will be protected from through vaccination, before they start school.
Many of these diseases are still around in other parts of the world and your child may be at risk if you travel with your family. With more people coming to visit this country, there is always a risk that your child could come into contact with the infections.
Vaccines are routinely offered to everyone in the UK free of charge on the NHS. Try to have your vaccinations delivered on time to ensure protection. If you're not going to be able to get to the GP surgery when a vaccination is due, talk to your doctor, as it may be possible to arrange to have the vaccination at a different time. If you've missed a vaccination it is possible to catch up.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines contain a small part of the bacterium or virus that causes a disease, or tiny amounts of the chemicals the bacterium produces. Vaccines work by causing the body’s immune system to make antibodies. If your child comes into contact with the infection, the antibodies will recognise it and be ready to protect him or her. Because vaccines have been used so successfully in the UK, diseases such as polio have disappeared from this country.
How do we know that vaccines are safe?
Before a vaccine is allowed to be used, its safety and effectiveness have to be thoroughly tested. After they have been licensed, vaccine safety continues to be monitored. Any rare side effects that are discovered can then be assessed further. All medicines can cause side effects, but vaccines are among the very safest.
Will there be any side effects from the vaccines?
Any side effects that occur are usually mild. Your child may get a little redness, swelling or tenderness at the injection site, which will disappear on its own. Some children may get a fever that can be treated with paracetamol liquid. Read the instructions on the bottle carefully and give your child the correct dose for their age. A second dose four to six hours later, may be needed. If your child’s temperature is still high after they have had a second dose of paracetamol liquid, speak to your doctor or call the free NHS helpline 111.
Are there any reasons why my child should not be immunised?
There are very few children who cannot be immunised. In general, a vaccine should not be given to children who have had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of the same vaccine. There are a very small number of children who may not be able to have a routine vaccine for health reasons. Your health visitor, practice nurse or doctor will ask you about the relevant conditions. You can also discuss with them if you are worried about a specific vaccine.
View the vaccination timetable