Baby immunisations: what all mums should know
Your baby’s first injections are a key milestone. We guide you through what each of your baby's jabs does and why they're so important plus: we've got a handy baby vaccination timeline
Your baby will face quite a few injections as she grows: and, as it can be tough watching her go through it, it's worth remembering that each vaccination is important for her growing immune system and to prevent the possibility of her getting a serious illness.
Here we'll look at:
- how vaccinations work
- why they're so important
- where on the body your baby will have them
- when your baby shouldn't have their vaccinations
- vaccination timeline
When you get an infection, your body produces proteins called antibodies to fight it. After an infection your body is usually immune from that infection and this protection can last for life (e.g. once you get chickenpox, you normally can’t get it again).
A vaccination is a watered-down version of the virus or bacteria that causes an infection so you don’t actually catch the illness, but your body can begin to build defences against it.
“People often think a child doesn’t need immunisations because a disease isn’t prevalent. But it’s not prevalent because we’re vaccinated against it, so few people contract the illness,” explains Dr Miriam Stoppard OBE.
And while we know it's not nice seeing your baby have those jabs, remembering why you're doing it will help you through.
Our favourite GP, Dr Philippa Kaye, says: "Your baby's immunisations are one of the most important things that you do for your child, ever.
"You are giving them protection against diseases which can be extremely serious and even fatal. Immunisations work.
"They are extremely effective, and although there may be some very short-lived side effects, the immunisations given in the schedule are safe.
"I gave them to all 3 of my children without hesitation and firmly encourage you to do the same.
"If you don't immunise your child, you not only put your own child at risk but mine too - as herd immunity is also required."
"The rotavirus vaccine, given at 8 weeks, is oral - but aside from that the primary course of immunisations at 2,3 and 4 months of age go into the thighs," Dr Philippa tells us.
"If giving more than 2 vaccines they use both thighs and if 3, as at week 8 and 16 they put 2 on 1 thigh (separated by a gap) and one on the other. At 1 year old you can use the thighs or upper arms."
If your child has a minor cough or cold without a fever you should still give them the vaccines, says Dr Philippa. If they have a fever you should delay until they are recovered.
You should also delay / speak to your GP:
- if they have had anaphylaxis reaction to a previous vaccine or an ingredient in it
- if they are having a live vaccine such as the MMR and are taking medication which suppresses their immune systems such as chemotherapy.
What should I do about vaccinations if my baby was born prematurely?
Even if your baby was born prematurely you should start the vaccination schedule at 8 weeks of age: ie, 8 weeks since their birthday and not wait until 8 weeks past their due date - as waiting leaves them at risk of these infections.
It is best for your baby to have her immunisations at the correct time, as the earlier she is protected, the better. But there is no need to panic if you delay a jab for a week or you need to have it a few days earlier.
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What is important is the order in which she has the vaccines, and making sure she has them all.
Here's what she'll have, in order (correct as of January 2019):
8 weeks: vaccinations given
Vaccines given for the FIRST time at 8 weeks are:
- Meningitis B.
Some require repeat vaccinations (details below).
1. 6-in-1 vaccine
The 6-in-1 single jab protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children) and Hepatitis B.
It is given first at 8 weeks, then at 12 weeks and again at 16 weeks.
2. Pneumococcal or pneumo jab PCV
Offers protection against Pneumococcal infection - a bacterium that can cause meningitis, septicaemia (blood poisoning) and pneumonia.
It is given first at 8 weeks, then at 16 weeks and again at 1 year.
3. Rotavirus vaccine (given orally)
Offers protection against Rotavirus - a common cause of diarrhoea and sickness in babies.
It is given first at 8 weeks then at 12 weeks.
4. Meningitis B vaccine
Offers protection against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria - which can cause meningitis and sepsis - which can then lead to brain damage, amputation and even death.
It is given first at 8 weeks, then at 16 weeks and again at 1 year.
12 weeks: vaccinations given
- 6-in-1 vaccine - 2nd dose
- Rotavirus vaccine - 2nd dose
16 weeks: vaccinations given
- 6-in-1 vaccine - 3rd dose
- Pneumococcal or pneumo jab (PCV) - 2nd dose
- Meningitis B - 2nd dose
1 year: vaccinations given
1. Hib/Meningitis C vaccine
This is a single vaccine designed to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type B and Meningitis C - both of which can cause meningitis and septicaemia and are potentially fatal.
2. MMR vaccine - first dose (2nd dose given at 3 years and 4 months)
This vaccines is given as a single dose and protects against 3 diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.
2 years: vaccinations given
This is given as a nasal spray in September/October to all children from 2 to 8 years.
3 years and 4 months: vaccinations given
4 in 1 pre-school booster
Protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.
These jabs are offered on the NHS to 'at risk' babies and children.
From birth: optional vaccinations given
This protects agains tuberculosis (TB). Babies and children who have a higher risk of coming into contact with it should have it, often depending on where they live.
2. Hepatitis B
This is given to babies born to a mother with hepatitis B, at birth then again at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year.
6 months: optional vaccinations given
While all children get the flu vaccine between 2 and 8 years, those aged 6 months to 2 years who have certain medical conditions or a weakened immune system need a flu jab sooner.
In this case, rather than being given as a nasal spray, it is given as an injection, every year in September/November.
1 year: optional vaccinations given
This is given to the siblings of children who have suppressed immune systems and are susceptible to getting chickenpox because they're having, for example, treatment for cancer or have had an organ transplant.
Children are given 2 doses, 4 to 8 weeks apart.
- Find out how to cope with your baby's jabs
- What to expect after your baby's injections
- Sespis in babies and children - the key signs to spot
- Chickenpox and other childhood illnesses
Last updated: January 2019
Tara is mum to 1 daughter, Bodhi Rae, and has worked as Content Editor and Social Media Producer at MadeForMums since 2015
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