A-Z

Immunisation

What is immunisation?

For certain infectious diseases like measles or mumps, once a person has had them and recovered they are almost certain never to catch that disease again. This is because when you get an infectious disease your body makes antibodies against that disease which means that if you are ever exposed to it again - your antibodies in your blood will kill off the bugs before they have any effect.   

 

A paediatrician explains how immunisation works.

View full profile
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Immunisations work on the same kind of principle that by injecting a very small amount of the disease - so small or inactive that it will not give you the disease itself, a person will develop antibodies and therefore an immunity to the disease and are very, very unlikely to suffer the disease itself, or if they do, it will be in a very mild form. Over the years many vaccines have been developed against infectious diseases. These vaccines contain either minute quantities of the active disease or contain the bug giving the disease in a very modified form so that it means that your body creates the antibodies that you need but that you don't actually get the disease itself. In this way you get all the protection that you should have without having the illness.

In the UK, babies and young children are routinely immunised against several different infectious diseases. Immunisation of children in the UK is not compulsory as it is in some other countries so parents choose whether or not to have their child immunised.  However, there are very good reasons why we immunise children (see 'Why do we immunise?').   

Safety is always the primary concern in designing a vaccine, and is the first thing that is tested when a new vaccine is going through clinical trials. All potential problems of any kind are thoroughly investigated and excluded before clinical trials are started on children.

 

A paediatrician talks about the safety of vaccines.

View full profile
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Safety is always the primary concern in designing a vaccine, and is the first thing that is tested when a new vaccine is going through clinical trials. All potential problems of any kind are thoroughly investigated and excluded before clinical trials are started on children. Side effects are studied in the clinical trials, often by parents keeping diaries of their children's symptoms after vaccination - if there are any. By the time that a vaccine is ready to be given routinely to all children, there will be evidence of the vaccines safety from studies involving tens of thousands of children, and this evidence will have been examined extremely carefully by national and international drug safety committees. For more information on the safety of vaccines have a look at the 'Questions and Answers' section on this site.

As well as containing a very small amount live or modified amounts of the bugs causing the disease, vaccines are also preserved with small amounts of things such as formaldehyde, aluminium and antibiotics. Formaldehyde converts the bacterial toxins into “toxoids” which are harmless but give immunity against the dangerous toxins which may be produced when you actually get the bad form of the infectious diseases. This is an entirely safe procedure which really works. Also every batch of toxoid vaccines is tested to make sure that they have been made absolutely safe, and that the preservatives in the vaccines are in very, very low dosages.

The Immunisation programme in the United Kingdom aims to give children the best possible protection against the widest range of infectious diseases. The recommended immunisations that children should have are as follows:
 

  
Age when vaccine is recommended What vaccine is given No. of 
injections
Pregnant mothers Whooping cough (pertussis)
(Pregnant mothers are now given a whooping cough vaccination between 28-38 weeks to help protect the baby from developing whooping cough in their first few weeks of life. Babies are not vaccinated against whooping cough until they are two months old.)
One injection
Two months old Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/ Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib)
known as the 5-in-1
 
& Pneumococcal (PVC) vaccine
& Rotavirus vaccine
& Meningococcal B (Men B) vaccine
One injection
 
 
 
 
One injection
Oral vaccine
One injection
 Three months old Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/ Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib) (2nd dose)
known as the 5-in-1
 
& Meningococcal C (Men C) vaccine
& Rotavirus vaccine (2nd dose)
One injection
 
 
 
 
One injection
 
Oral vaccine
Four months old Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/ Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DTaP/IPV/Hib) (3rd dose)
known as the 5-in-1
 
& Pneumococcal (PVC) vaccine (2nd dose)
& Meningococcal B (Men B) vaccine (2nd dose)
One injection
 
 
 
 
One injection
 
One injection
Between 12 and 13 months of age Meningococcal C (Men C) vaccine (2nd dose) & Hib booster (4th dose)
 
& Pneumococcal (PVC) vaccine (third dose)
& Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine
& Meningococcal B (Men B) vaccine (3rd dose)
One injection
 
 
One injection
 
One injection
 
One injection
Between 2 and 6 years old (including children in school years 1 and 2) The existing flu immunisation programme will be extended over a number of years to include all children aged two to 16 inclusive. One injection
Between 3 years, 4 months and 5 years Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/ and Polio (DTaP/IPV) known as the 4-in-1 (pre-school booster)
 
& MMR booster (2nd dose)
One injection
 
 
One injection
Girls aged 12 -13 years Human Papilloma virus (HPV) Vaccine Three injections
13 to 18 years Tetanus/diphtheria (adult type)/Inactivated Polio Vaccine (Td/IPV) 3-in-1
 
& Meningococcal ACWY vaccine
One injection
 
 
 
One injection
19-25 years (first-time students only Meningococcal ACWY vaccine One injection
 


The immunisation clinics that you will be asked to attend with your baby are run by the general practice where you and your child are registered. You should receive an appointment letter when your child's immunisation is due. If you have any questions about your child's immunisations talk to your GP or health visitor. Details of your baby's immunisation schedule will also be available to you in your 'parent held' - Child Health Record. The immunisations for teenagers are usually arranged in schools.

 

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated October 2015.
donate
Previous Page
Next Page