Baby Immunisations?

IMMUNISATIONS

Seeing your baby being given their vaccinations is difficult for many parents, as it is never pleasant to see our little ones be upset or feel some pain/discomfort.

However, immunisation is a key step in protecting your child against a range of potentially fatal diseases, and has unquestionably saved the lives of millions of children.

The use of vaccines to strengthen immunity is the reason why smallpox has been eliminated from the world and why polio is almost unheard of in Britain today.

That said, although immunisations are shown to have many benefits – as a parent in the UK – it is still your choice as to whether your child receives them all, some of them or none of them at all.

 

HOW DO IMMUNISATIONS WORK?

Vaccines contain a small part of the bacterium or virus that causes the specific disease being vaccinated against. This causes the body’s immune system to make antibodies (substances that fight off infection and disease) in response. Then, in the future, if your child comes into contact with the infection again, the antibodies will already recognise it and be ready to protect them. Because vaccines have been used so successfully in the UK, diseases such as diphtheria have almost disappeared from this country.

 Common baby illnesses

WHEN DOES MY BABY RECEIVE THEIR IMMUNISATIONS?

The routine schedule of vaccinations starts when your baby is two months old. They will be offered vaccinations at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, and then another set at one year old.

If your baby is ill or you are unable to attend a scheduled appointment, you can reschedule and have the vaccinations given as soon as is feasible. However, if your baby has just a minor illness without a fever, such as a cold, they can have their immunisations as normal. Many of the diseases which are being vaccinated against can be particularly serious in young babies, which is why there is emphasis on making sure babies are vaccinated as close to the recommended schedule, to prevent them catching the diseases.

If your baby does have a temperature on the day of their appointment, they will not be vaccinated, you will need to wait until they are well again. This is to avoid the fever being associated with the vaccine, or the vaccine increasing the fever your child already has.

Speak to your doctor, practice nurse or health visitor before your child has any immunisation if they have a bleeding disorder or has had a fit not associated with fever.

8 weeks old

Your baby will be offered immunisations against:

diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), meningococcal group B disease (MenB), pneumococcal disease and rotavirus.

12 weeks old

Your baby will be offered immunisations against:

diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), and rotavirus.

16 weeks old

Your baby will be offered immunisations against:

diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningococcal group B disease (MenB) and pneumococcal disease.

12 months old

Your baby will be offered immunisations against:

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)/ Meningococcal group C (MenC), MenB, measles, mumps, rubella and pneumococcal disease.

Do remember that vaccination schedules or the vaccines offered can change from year to year, so you may find your new baby is offered vaccines your previous other/s was not.

ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?

Vaccines are generally safe and effective, and serious side effects such as an extreme allergic reaction, are highly unlikely. However, you will often be advised to wait in the surgery for 15 minutes after vaccinations to make sure all is well before you leave.

However, it is not uncommon for your baby to develop a mild rash, fever or swelling around the site of the injection. Their behaviour may also be different for a day or so – such as being more unsettled than usual, or more sleepy.

Babies having the rotavirus vaccine may get mild diarrhoea, and you have to take precautions if using washable nappies to not come in contact with the poo.

If you are worried about your child at any point following a vaccination, trust your instincts.

Speak to your doctor at the surgery if you are still there, or call the free NHS helpline 111.

If the surgery is closed and you can’t contact your doctor, trust your instincts and go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital.

THE IMMUNISATION RECORD

  • Your GP should keep a record of all the immunisations your child receives. However, as people move, files get lost and mistakes do get made, you are advised to keep your own record. This can also be useful if you travel abroad and need proof of protection against infectious diseases. 
  • Soon after your baby is born, the midwife or health visitor should give you a little red book (Personal Child Health Record), which details information on the immunisations and health checks your child will need and has had. You should record each and every immunisation in this red book for complete accuracy throughout your child's life (they may need it themselves later, for example, when applying for a job).

NATURAL IMMUNITY

When babies arrive in the world, they already have a certain level of immunity to diseases. This is strengthened through breastfeeding, because breast milk is full of antibodies – particularly the breast milk that arrives shortly after birth. This is one of the reasons why the first MMR is only given after one year – by which stage this natural immunity is wearing off.

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Guest Tuesday, 22 January 2019

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