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Immunisation

Reactions to DTaP/ IPV/ Hib, BCG vaccines

Most of the parents we interviewed said that their baby had no reaction after the DTaP/IPV/Hib, Men C immunisations. If any reaction did occur, it was just that they were a little sleepy or irritable for a day or two, but other than that they had been fine. Before their baby's first immunisation, some parents had been advised by their health visitor or GP to give their baby paracetamol to help reduce any symptoms their child may experience. These interviews were conducted before pneumococcal and Men B vaccinations were started. Giving paracetamol after immunisations is now not recommended for most injections, but the Men B vaccination (at 2 months, 4 months and 12 months) can cause high fevers so parents are now advised to: 

“Administer 2.5ml liquid paracetamol at the time or shortly after the vaccine and repeat for 2 further doses 4–6h later.” - GP Update Handbook Spring 2014.

During the first year of life, it is recommended that babies have the following immunisations; DTaP/IPV/Hib (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio, Haemophilus influenzae Type b), Men C (Meningococcal C), Men B and pneumococcal vaccine. For guidance on when babies should receive these immunisations, see 'What is immunisation'.

 

Apart from being more tired than usual, her daughters experienced no reaction to their 2, 3 and 4...

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She went to sleep basically. And I don't know, in, in fact both of them did, they both went to sleep, they and I don't know whether that was because I had already given them the Calpol and they were very young babies or whether it was just that would happened anyway. But I think because they had also both cried a lot, tiny babies, that exhausts them too. So, so they both basically had a really good sleep and by the time they woke up they were absolutely fine.

 

Possible reactions to the vaccine worried her but her son had been fine after all three sets of...

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Well, when [my son] was born I was just sent the, the regular letters out that the local doctors, the health centre send. And I think at that stage I just accepted that that's what had to happen. I didn't, I hadn't heard about anything untoward about the tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough jabs or the polio so we just went ahead with them. The only thing I was concerned about as a new mum was would there be a reaction, because obviously everything was absolutely new to me and I just didn't know, you know, well, no other previous chance to find out if he might be allergic to anything in the injections or anything like that. But actually he was absolutely fine after them. The first one he was fine, the second one he was slightly feverish, and the third one he was fine again, third set. So it was just a question of we got the letter and we turned up and we, we had him immunised.

 

Her eldest son didn't have any reaction and her younger son was irritable and had a temperature...

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No. Our first son didn't really at all. My second son, after each of the first, I don't know, 2 months, 3 months and 4 months, did develop temperatures and was irritable and not really a happy baby for a day or so afterwards. But my first son didn't have any, I didn't notice any problems with him at all.

The overwhelming majority of parents believe in immunisation for their children. We have however included here the views of a few parents who do not believe immunisation is right for their own child based on their personal beliefs. Their views represent a small proportion of the population. 

A vaccine, like any medicine, is occasionally capable of causing mild to severe reactions. Mild reactions, such as mild fever, irritability, tiredness or poor appetite, vomiting or a small lump where the injection was given which disappears after a few weeks can occur. Redness, swelling, and tenderness where the injection was given can occur in up to 1 child in 10 with the DTaP/IPV/Hib vaccine. Mild reactions generally occur 1-3 days after the vaccine.

Sometimes children can react after one set of immunisations but not others. Being a first time mum and seeing their baby not acting himself can be frightening, but most parents said that any reaction disappeared after a few days and their baby returned to how he was before the immunisation.  

 
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After the 2, 3 and 4 months old immunisations, her son had flu-like symptoms for a couple of days.

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After the three immunisations that he's had previous to this he has been a little bit ill, he's kind of took flu-like symptoms, the fever. It's, they tell you to expect these things but when you see it happening and you, in front of you, you do worry, “Have I done the wrong thing? Look at him”. But I just need to remember that doesn't last for long at all. It was only I think two days at the very most that I thought, “He's not himself. What's happened to you?” He was really hot, I gave him a wee bit of Calpol as advised to do and he was fine.

Some parents said that their child had a small swelling where the injection had been given that disappeared within 48 hours but in a couple of cases the swelling lasted for up to two weeks. If symptoms persist and parents are concerned, they should contact their GP.

 

Her son developed a swelling on his leg 48 hours after his injection which lasted two weeks.

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I noticed it about the second day and it actually got bigger and I think probably peaked at about four or five days afterwards. It didn't bother him but it was a big hard lump where the vaccine was. I don't know if that was anything to do with the way it was given in any way. But, then I read afterwards that actually the vaccine can cause a reaction, a localised reaction so I presume it was probably a reaction to the vaccine. It didn't bother me but it did last for about I think two weeks almost. And it's actually gone now. I think my husband was a bit worried that maybe I should take home to the doctor in case it was sort of infected but it wasn't sore at all, so I left it and it did actually then go down.

Okay. Did it bother you?

Not too much. I was just keeping an eye on it. No it didn't, I wasn't actually worried about it, but if it had got any bigger or if it had started to get painful, I would have gone to the doctor's in case it was an abscess or something. He didn't actually get any adverse reaction other than that, other than the local reaction, he didn't have any side-effects. I gave him some Calpol when I got home as I was told to do but he didn't, he wasn't particularly feverish or anything like that. And I hadn't noticed any reactions for my daughter when she had those vaccines a year or two ago, two years ago and she didn't have any problems, locally, just a bit of fever. That's normal I think.

Intermediate reactions, such as a fit (convulsion or seizure), non-stop crying for 3 hours or more, being floppy or very pale or a high fever are uncommon and occur in less than 1 child in 1,000. These kinds of reactions, if they do occur, are likely to happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the injection. A couple of parents whose child had had an intermediate reaction sought advice from a hospital consultant or paediatric immunologist before deciding to go ahead with the remaining immunisations, which were carried out in hospital. Their children had no further reactions. These parents reported that their children continued to develop normally. 

 

Her son had a febrile convulsion after his second set of immunisations.

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Every vaccination he's had so far he, he's been a little bit ill afterwards. And with, with one, the second lot of immunisations he had he was, he was really very ill and he had a, a febrile fit, which I think was linked to the vaccination. I'm not sure. It could have just been that he had quite a bad cold and a fever as well. And that was very frightening in the night he woke up, well we woke up, he woke us up and he was shivering and shaking and we picked him up and he, he wasn't crying. That was the weird thing and his lips were going a bit blue and he was shaking and so we rushed him to the hospital. Oh and he was vomiting everywhere and that was not very pleasant for him or us. We took him to the hospital and they explained that it was a fit induced by high fever. He has not had one since and it, from friends of mine whose children have had similar things it wasn't a particularly bad one but it was still quite scary.

 

Her daughter had swollen eyes eleven hours after her second set of injections at 3 months old.

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So she had the second jab and this was just before lunchtime, on the Friday, and she cried initially, and then she calmed down very quickly and she was absolutely fine. And to be honest, I forgot to give her the Calpol, because, she seemed fine and didn't occur to me until several hours later. And I thought, well there's no point giving it to her now, because she's obviously not had a problem with it. And then it was eleven hours after the injection, she I noticed that one eye had become very swollen. And we phoned the NHS Direct and in between then and the nurse phoning us back the other eye became rapidly very swollen in about the space of twenty minutes.  

This was very frightening because our first concern, of course, was the fact that her throat might close up and she might have difficulty breathing because we didn't know what had happened. We were advised to take her hospital, which we did. And the hospital that we took her actually phoned through to a paediatrician at another hospital, and advised to give her Piriton. So we gave her 5 mls of Piriton and then they said, 'Bring her back… give her another dose in the morning… and if the eyes haven't gone down, bring her back but if they have gone down and it will take two or three days then I would just see the GP on the Monday.'

So we had a very fraught night because of course, she was wanting to fall asleep because it was about one o'clock when we left the hospital. So I couldn't keep her up, but at the same time, the doctor told me to keep an eye on her throughout the night. So we had her in the room with us and I checked on her every hour. The next morning, her eye had gone down somewhat, that's when we spoke to NHS Direct again, and we were advised that if we were still very worried, which we were, to take her back to the hospital for a check-up. So we went to the other hospital which had the paediatric unit and they checked her over. And the eyes, by this time, the eyes were really starting to come down and they said that they should go down over the next couple of days, which they did.  

They said that they didn't know what could have caused it. They did ask me whether or not I'd eaten anything different. To be honest, she was, my baby was four months old at this stage, and I'd been having the same thing for lunch every day [laughs], for weeks. So I knew it wasn't anything that she could have eaten because I'd, my diet was, had been exactly the same, there'd been no change there at all. So the only thing different was the jab. So we went back to the GP, as the hospital suggested, and the GP suggested that for the third set of immunisations, we have them in a hospital setting.  

So there was no reaction and it was absolutely fine, after she had her immunisations, and I'm really pleased that I had them done.

 

Her premature baby stopped breathing briefly but he was carefully monitored and he had his second...

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He was born at 26 weeks, which obviously has its own troubles, and he was in hospital for ten weeks. While he was in hospital he had to have his first immunisations at 2 weeks old, which they carried on giving him even though he was still very premature. So he had his injections at 2 weeks. And he had a reaction to it. He stopped breathing, which is very normal for premature babies, as anyone with a premature baby will know. But it was a reaction that obviously when his next lot were coming we were a bit worried. So I think he had his next lot due just after we left, left hospital, when he was about 10, 11 weeks old. So they said we could take him, to come back to the hospital to have the immunisations and be monitored. So we did that, which was, was good and he was totally fine. So that, that was very reassuring. And then I think his next lot were done just at the doctor's, and again he, he was fine with that. 

Severe reactions, such as serious allergic reactions, to these first immunisations are very rare (less than 1 out of a million doses). We didn't interview any parents whose child had experienced a severe reaction.

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated October 2015

 

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