A quick guide to baby vaccinations

What are childhood vaccines?

Childhood vaccines are designed to help protect your child against certain dangerous childhood illnesses. Most are given as injections (or ‘jabs’) while some are given as oral medicines.

When are vaccines given?

Vaccines are routinely given to babies and young children on the NHS at certain intervals from a young age. In early childhood, vaccines are recommended at:

  • eight weeks old
  • twelve weeks old
  • sixteen weeks old
  • one year old
  • three years and four months

Health professionals may recommend other, less routine, vaccines at other times during childhood, possibly including travel vaccines if you’re visiting particular countries. These sometimes need to be paid for, depending on the vaccine, as private treatment.

What kinds of illnesses are routinely vaccinated against?

Different illnesses are vaccinated against at different times in children. Sometimes several vaccines are included in the same jab. Here are just two examples:

  • The ‘six-in-one vaccine’. This protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and hepatitis B. It’s currently given to babies at eight, twelve and sixteen weeks.
  • The MMR vaccine. This protects against measles, mumps and rubella. It’s currently given at one year, and then again at three years and four months.

Are childhood vaccines safe?

Yes, childhood vaccines are generally very safe and important for your child. They work well in protecting babies and children against serious infectious illnesses.

All vaccines given to children in the UK will have been approved by the Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and have gone through careful testing. The MHRA is there to make sure that medicines, among other things, are safe and high-quality.

Some people who disagree with vaccines have claimed that they are linked to problems such as autism and allergies. But several large studies have found no evidence to support these claims.

Some children may experience side effects from vaccines; the two most common are minor swelling where the injection is given, and children having a high temperature for a short time. Side-effects like these are usually very mild and normal, and there’s strong evidence that giving children vaccines is safer than not doing so. It’s also clear from the data that infectious diseases are much more common in children in countries where vaccines are not routinely available, or where people have decided not to vaccinate.

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