Some injections, like the BCG to combat TB, are optional, others are strongly advised, and one (MMR) is regarded as controversial. However, jabs, injections, inoculations, immunisations – call them what you want, they all involved needles.
Most parents hate needles and feel they are being cruel to their child, but with lots of reassuring cuddles and gentle voices from you, your baby will sail through these briefly horrible experiences.
(Check out the linked articles below for more information on specific immunisations for babies.)
Baby’s first year
The injections in many cases start at birth, when most babies are given Vitamin K and in some regions, given BCG (due to higher localised instances of tuberculosis). Then there are the two, three and four month injections which are aimed at combatting Hepatitis, Polio, Tetanus etc.
At birth, your baby is unlikely to have a bad reaction to these injections and will be observed by a medical professional as a matter of course.
The two, three and four month injections (and the BCG injection) are more regularly organised by you making an appointment with your GP. You will be sent a reminder if you haven’t organised these.
Take your baby’s ‘red book’ along with you so the doctor or nurse can register the date of each immunisation. You may have a good memory now but in the years to come, keeping track of their jabs gets tricky!
Beforehand, if your baby seems unwell at all, you can call the GP surgery to check if they think the vaccination is advisable. if in doubt, they will probably ask you to come in and they can take your baby’s temperature before deciding whether or not to go ahead on that day, with the injections.
The key concern is not that an unwell child can catch the illnesses from the vaccinations, but that occasionally injections do cause a baby’s temperature to rise slightly, and if they already have a cold or something, their temperature will then be pushed above the 38 degrees C mark.
If you child has any serious conditions or medical concerns, you can discuss with your doctor when is a better time to take on a series of injections like these.
When you get home
Under three months, a chemist will not sell you baby paracetamol. If your doctor of nurse believes you might need some and feels it is safe, they can write a prescription to give you some infant suspension (medicine) that will help bring down a temperature, should it rise slightly, after the first injections.
At three and four months, you can give a baby paracetamol like Calpol if you feel your baby is uncomfortable after an appointment.
It is ideal, if you are breastfeeding, to try to nurse your baby and relax him or her as much as possible. The needles will upset them a little, but a baby is usually quickly comforted.
No fun for you
It is no fun for you, either, but bear in mind that when your baby is sucking on shared playgroup toys in a few months’ time, at least he or she will have been vaccinated against the illnesses that used to cause serious infant sickness.
If you are particularly concerned about the reaction your baby has to a specific injection, beyond what the nurse or GP has already advised you to expect, then do not hestitate to contact your doctor or, in serious cases, your local hospital. Such reaction is rare and very unlikely.
Opting out of injections
No injections are legally compulsory, although the wording of letters from your health authority may make you feel like they are.
The drop in uptake on injections like MMR have given health authorities cause for concern. This is because the number of children in any area having immunisations has to be above a pretty high percentage so as not to cause an outbreak of a serious illness like measles.
In some areas, a surgery will not accept a child onto their books until they have had the MMR vaccination. This may be done for the right reasons but unfortunately it is a strong-arm tactic that makes some parents all the more suspcious.
You will find that in some areas, there is suddenly a surge of interest in getting a child’s injections up to date when the reality of a specific illness arrives in a neighbourhood. Unfortunately by then it may be too late.
The MMR has been the most controversial injection after one report in the late 1990s linked it to autism. This is a link that has been flatly denied by other medical bodies and individual GPs and you can find out more by checking out the article links below.
If you have a genuine concern and a history of a condition like autism in your family, then do talk the issues through with your doctor or another medical specialist you feel you can trust, before going through with the immunisation.