Medic 8 baby vaccinations

Vaccinations have helped to decrease the rate of childhood diseases significantly; immunisations have even helped to eradicate some diseases from the UK. In the UK, the NHS provides routine immunisations for every child and parents and guardians will be contacted to tell them when to take their child for their injections.

Why should my child have vaccinations?

Vaccinations are important because they help to protect your child against a host of harmful infectious diseases. Many of the diseases that are vaccinated against in the routine immunisation programme have very serious side-effects and can potentially cause death.

Research has consistently shown that immunisations are the best way of protecting children against common childhood diseases and decreasing the rate and prevalence of these diseases in our society; since the vaccination programme was introduced, the number of cases of many diseases has decreased significantly.

Vaccinating helps to protect the community and wider society, as well as children, as many of the diseases are highly contagious and infectious.

How do I know what vaccinations my baby needs?

You will be notified by your local surgery or Primary Care Trust when your child is due to go in for their injections. You will either be given an appointment or asked to arrange an appointment with your practice nurse if you can’t make the original appointment. In order to make sure you get the letter, make sure your contact details are up to date.

If you want to find out about when your child’s vaccinations are due, you can ask your GP, health visitor or visit the NHS website for details of the vaccination calendar.

Which vaccinations will be given?

Your baby will be given several lots of vaccinations to protect them against different diseases and illnesses; currently, the NHS immunisation programme includes vaccinations against:

  • Measles

Measles used to be very common but routine immunisation has decreased the rates significantly in the UK and the disease is now almost non-existent. Measles is a viral illness, which is highly contagious; it often begins with cold-like symptoms and a rash usually appears shortly after the initial symptoms; the rash is usually made up of reddish or brown spots and can appear all over the body. Measles can be quickly spread via droplets in the air, which are released when people sneeze or cough. Measles can be prevented by having the MMR vaccination.

  • Mumps

Mumps is a viral infection, which can be very contagious. It is usually characterised by swelling of the glands on one or both sides of the mouth (the parotid glands) but can also cause other symptoms including headaches, nausea, abdominal pain and joint pain. There is currently no treatment for mumps; self-help techniques include plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluid and taking over the counter pain relief. Mumps can be prevented by having the MMR vaccination.

  • Rubella

Rubella is commonly known as German measles. It is a viral infection, which causes a high temperature (over 38 degrees). In most cases, rubella is a mild condition and the symptoms subside with bed rest, plenty of fluids and painkillers; however, it can be very serious if a pregnant woman contracts the infection. Rubella can affect the unborn baby and can contribute to birth defects. Rubella can be prevented by the MMR vaccination.

  • Diphtheria

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that causes breathing difficulties and a sore throat; in extreme cases, it can be fatal. Diphtheria used to be one of the biggest killers amongst young children (in 1940 there were more than 3,000 deaths); however, since the introduction of the vaccination in the routine immunisation programme, the number of cases has decreased considerably and there were only 10 recorded cases of the disease in 2006 and just one death.

  • Tetanus

Tetanus is a bacterial infection, which is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani. Tetanus can be caused by the bacteria entering the body through a cut or wound. Tetanus is not contagious but it must be treated quickly because it can potentially be fatal if it is not treated.

  • Whooping cough (pertussis)

Whooping cough used to be extremely common amongst children; however, since its introduction into the routine immunisation programme, the number of cases has decreased rapidly and the disease is now very rare. Whooping cough affects the lining of the airways and can cause respiratory problems; the main symptom is a severe cough, which is followed by a sharp intake of breath that sounds like a ‘whoop’ sound, hence the name of the illness.

  • Haemophilius  influenzae type b (Hib)

This illness is closely linked to flu and it causes flu-like symptoms including a high temperature, joint and muscle aches, headaches and nausea. If untreated, more serious health issues may arise, so it is important to take your child to the doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.

  • Polio

Polio is a potentially fatal illness, which is caused by a viral infection. In most cases, the condition is mild but it can be very serious; symptoms are usually similar to those associated with flu. In developing countries, including India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan, polio is still a common cause of death; however, in the UK, it is extremely rare.

  • Meningitis C

Meningitis C is a bacterial infection, which affects the meninges (the membranes around the spinal cord and the brain). Symptoms of the infection include nausea and vomiting, severe headaches, high temperature and a rash (this does not appear on everyone). Bacterial meningitis is a very serious condition, which should be treated as a medical emergency; it can potentially be fatal.

  • Pneumococcal infection

Pneumococcal infections are caused by different strains of a bacterium known as streptococcus pneumonia; there are over 90 different strains. Common examples of pneumococcal infections include middle ear infections, lung infections, sinusitis, bronchitis and meningitis.

In some cases, it may be necessary to delay your child’s vaccinations; this may be the case in the following circumstances:

  • If your baby is being treated for cancer or has received treatment in the past 6 months
  • If your child has a condition which means their immune system is weaker than usual
  • If your child is taking medication to temporarily suppress their immune system
  • If your child is taking steroids (this is usually to treat asthma)
  • If your child has had a bone marrow transplant in the past 6 months

It is not necessary to delay injections under any other circumstances; if you have questions or concerns, arrange to talk to your GP or practice nurse.

When are the vaccinations given?

The vaccinations included in the routine immunisation programme are given as follows:

2 months:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Whooping cough                           All given together in 5-in-1 injection (called DTaP/IPV/Hib)
  • Polio
  • Haemphilus influenzae type B
  • Pneumoccal infection (in a separate injection)

3 months:

  • 5 in 1 DTaP/IPV/Hib injection- second dose
  • Meningitis C

4 months:

  • 5 in 1 DTaP/IPV/Hib injection- third dose
  • Pneumococcal infection- second dose
  • Meningitis C- second dose

12 months:

  • Meningitis C- third dose
  • Hib- fourth dose

13 months:

  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) in a single injection
  • Pneumococcal infection- third dose

3 years 4 months (pre-school injections):

  • MMR- second dose
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio (4 in 1 injection known as DtaP/IPV)

Are vaccinations safe?

All the vaccinations provided by the NHS routine immunisation programme are considered to be very safe and effective; they have been trialled over several years and have enjoyed a great deal of success; many diseases are now almost extinct in the UK and children are protected against a host of childhood illnesses.

You may have seen articles in the news questioning the safety of the MMR vaccination and this may have caused you to decide against your child having the vaccine. Some articles suggested that the MMR injection had contributed to causes of autism; however, these reports have been condemned by health organisations across the world and there is no evidence or significant research to suggest that there is any truth in the claims. Doctors encourage parents to allow their children to have the injection to protect them against potentially harmful illnesses; every year thousands of children have the vaccination, without suffering any complications and the injection has been classified as both safe and effective by NICE (the organisation that issues NHS guidelines) and the World Health Organisation.

What are the side-effects of vaccinations?

In most cases, side-effects are very mild; however, in extreme cases, reactions to vaccinations may be severe; if this is the case you should seek urgent medical advice. Examples of severe reactions include:

  • A very high temperature (over 39 degrees)
  • Fitting or seizures
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Floppiness
  • Rash
  • Uncontrollable, high-pitched crying

Milder, more common side-effects include:

  • A slightly higher temperature than usual
  • Swollen glands
  • Irritation or a small lump when the injection was inserted into the skin
  • Sickness or diarrhoea
  • Being more clingy than usual

Most side-effects can be treated using over the counter pain relief; make sure you read the label carefully and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any worries or queries.

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