Why does my child need to be vaccinated?
All children in the UK are offered vaccinations against diseases such as measles, pertussis (whooping cough) and mumps. If enough children are vaccinated, it's very difficult for a disease to take hold and spread, which is why, in the UK and other developed countries, illnesses like TB and diphtheria are now much less common. However, if the uptake of a particular vaccination is low, it's possible that it may lead to an outbreak of that disease.
How does a vaccine work?
Vaccines for bacterial diseases usually contain a tiny bit of the bacteria that the jab is formulated to protect against, which has been treated so it can't actually cause the disease, but will instead prompt the body to produce antibodies so it can defend itself. Vaccines that protect against viruses are actually a very weak form of the virus, and trigger a similar immune response from the body.
Will there be side effects?
Most children have no reaction at all. You can give infant paracetamol to bring fever down, but only if your child is in pain or miserable. In extremely rare cases, a vaccination may cause an immediate allergic reaction, known as anaphylactic shock. Bear in mind that a nurse giving one hundred immunisations a week for 52 weeks a year would see one of these reactions once every two hundred years. That's how rare it is.
NB: If your child has a reaction to an injection, such as a high fever, call NHS direct on 0845 4647.
How can I help my baby on injection day?
Give your baby a kiss and a cuddle after her jab - breastfeeding or a bottle of milk may be comforting, too. For a toddler, a cartoon character plaster over the injection site is a great distraction, as is a favourite treat. Praise her for sitting still during the injection and, if the injection site is red and sore, hold a cool pack against it. Don't rub it, however. The area may be sore and bruised for a few days - this is totally normal.
What vaccinations will my baby have, and when?
- 2 months: First dose for diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Hib, pneumococcal infection.
- 3 months: Second dose for diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Hib, first dose for meningitis C.
- 4 months: Third dose for diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Hib; second dose for pneumococcal infection and meningitis C.
- Around 12-13 months: Boosters for Hib and meningitis C. First dose for measles, mumps and rubella; booster for pneumococcal infection.
- 3-5 years: Fourth dose diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and second dose measles, mumps and rubella.