Your baby’s immunisations

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Routine immunisations for your baby and toddler

Your baby will have several immunisations in their first few years, so here’s an overview of the vaccines that are offered for free to babies and children in the UK on the NHS, as well as the ages at which they should ideally be given. Your practice nurse or health visitor will be really happy to double check if your child has had all their immunisations. If not they will be able to arrange the vaccinations so your child can be up to date with the recommended vaccines.

Vaccines in the first years of life

Eight weeks

This is the first time you will take your baby for vaccinations. Take along your red book each time so you have a record of your baby’s vaccination programme. On this visit your baby will have:

5-in-1

This injection protects against five diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (also called pertussis) polio and Hib (Haemophilus influenza Type B – a bacterial infection that can cause both meningitis and pneumonia in children).

Pneumococcal vaccination (PCV)

This vaccine protects against the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia, sepsis (blood poisoning) and meningitis.

Rotavirus

Rotovix is a new vaccine given as a drop of liquid in your baby’s mouth. It protects against rotavirus, which is a very contagious tummy bug that most babies and children catch. It causes severe diarrhoea often accompanied by fever and vomiting. One in five children will need to see a doctor and of these one in 10 is transferred to hospital with nasty symptoms such as dehydration.

12 weeks

Meningitis C

5-in-1 second dose

Rotavirus second dose

16 weeks

5-in-1 third dose

Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) second dose

Between 12 and 13 months

Meningitis C (second dose) and Hib booster (fourth dose) in one jab

MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine given as a single jab

Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) third dose

Three years and four months, or soon after

MMR (measles mumps rubella) booster given as a single jab

4-in-1 pre-school booster of tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), polio

Clinical trials report that over 99% of children who had been given this pre-school booster develop protection against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and polio.

Why should I immunise my baby?

It can be very difficult when you first take your baby along for immunisations. Babies often cry and no parent really likes doing it – but it’s important to remember it’s the best thing you can do for your baby to help protect them against a wide range of potentially dangerous infectious diseases. Your baby would cry for longer and be at greater risk if she contracted the diseases you are protecting her from.

How do immunisations work?

Immunisations work by giving your baby’s immune system a small, weak or dead dose of the disease. Your baby cannot catch the disease from the jab as it is not active. Instead, your baby’s immune system recognises the disease and produces antibodies to the specific disease. This means that your baby’s immune system is prepared so that if exposed to the disease she can mount a defence and stop the disease from infecting her.

Is it normal for babies to get a fever after an immunisation or vaccination?

Many babies develop a low fever, up to about 38 degrees, in the period following their immunisations. This seems to be more prevalent with booster jabs. There can also be a delayed fever response to some immunisations, so speak to the nurse to find out when your baby is likely to have a fever reaction or, say, a sore arm so you will be prepared and ready for it.

What should I do if my baby gets a fever after an immunisation or vaccination?

Your doctor or practice nurse will often suggest giving your baby a minimal dose of paracetamol following immunisations in order to keep their temperature down. It’s best to double-check this is okay in case your baby is premature or their weight means that they need a very low dose. Be aware that seven to 10 days following their injections, babies and little children may develop a low-level rash and sometimes go off their food for up to three days. This is normal, but if the rash is more than mild or does not go away when you roll a glass over it, or you are worried, go and see your GP.

What is the MMR vaccine? Why do people worry about it?

The MMR vaccine provides protection from measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). There has been a lot of concern in the recent past (particularly in the 1990s) about the MMR vaccination and that has led to fewer people taking their children along to have them immunised. Please be aware that the research that initially caused the concern about a possible link between the MMR immunisation and autism has been discredited.

Unfortunately though, many people still believe this link to be true and as a result, have not taken their children to have the MMR immunisation. This has led to an increase in the numbers of children suffering with measles. The Essential Parent Company consultant paediatrician Dr Anna Maw has sadly had to treat a child hospitalised with measles who was actually very sick indeed. Measles is potentially quite serious and can have long-term complications for a baby’s health, including deafness. Your well-baby nurse will be happy to schedule the MMR if you have not had your baby, toddler or child vaccinated yet.