Your child will receive a number of vaccination for illnesses and diseases throughout childhood - the majority of which will be administered in their first year of life.
Here's what to expect from immunisation in his early years and useful information about vaccination ...
It's quite simple really - an immunised child is protected from lots of dangerous diseases and will prevent illnesses from being passed around. Research has shown that effective immunisation programmes can also help to eradicate diseases: smallpox was eliminated worldwide by 1979 which meant vaccinations against it could finally be stopped. If immunisation levels fall, diseases have a tendency to rear their ugly head again (the MMR scare resulted in a drop in immunisation levels and new outbreaks of measles).
It means that as the diseases become more widespread, children who have not been vaccinated AND children who have are all more likely to catch the disease. These diseases are all dangerous, and can leave a child disabled.
As a parent, do I have a choice?
The law does not require us to immunise our children, therefore the choice rests with us. If you are unsure about immunisation, it is important to get advice from your GP and gather as much information as possible on the vaccines so you can make an informed decision.
How does immunisation work?
The vaccine your child will be given contains very small parts of the bacteria or virus that cause the disease. As soon as they've been immunised, their little bodies will get to work producing antibodies to protect them from the illness and provide immunity. The vaccines are specially prepared to ensure the body does not catch the disease and it's essential for us to follow the advised immunisation programme to ensure our children are protected at the right times.
Do they provide life-long immunity?
In the majority of cases, yes, though vaccines can't always guarantee complete protection. This is often because the body hasn't produced enough antibodies to ward off the disease, though if a child does develop a disease after being vaccinated, it's likely to be relatively mild. Boosters and further immunisations may be needed as our children grow up.
Are there any side effects?
Since your child is being given a tiny does of the virus, they may seem unwell for a short time following immunisation, perhaps with a slight fever/high temperature. Other side effects include:-
All of these are completely normal but if you are concerned, your nurse or GP should be able to answer any queries you may have.
When should I not immunise?
There are a few reasons to delay immunisation and your GP will be able to advise on how best to deal with them. If your child is on medication, being treated for cancer or has a weak immune system, your doctor may advise waiting. Additionally, if your child is unwell with a high fever or virus, you may be advised to delay it for a while.
You will be asked whether your child has allergies and if they do, this might be a reason to change how things are done.
How can I be sure vaccinations are safe?
There has been much debate in recent years about the safety of immunisations but the deciding factor should really be based on medical research which has shown (in many different medical trials) that immunisation is the most effective way of protecting your child against disease. MMR has been linked to autism, though hundreds of studies based on millions of cases have since proved there is no evidence to support this theory. Another recent concern is the use of thiomersal - a preservative containing mercury which is present in some vaccines. The Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) has confirmed thiomersal carries no danger for children, though it is now being phased out from certain vaccines and is not present in the 5-in-1 DtaP/IPV/Hib vaccine your child has at 2, 3 and 4 months old.
Single vaccination jabs
Parents concerned about MMR were not concerned about vaccination itself, but that all three were given in one injection, so some parents have chosen to find private clinics who will immunise their children separately.
While this is still possible it of course costs money and the concern of the medical profession is that it takes longer for your child to be immunised as they wait between each injection and there is more likelihood your child may not be completely protected as there is more chance they up.
Why does my baby need vaccinations at such a young age?
Babies are provided with a certain amount of immunity against disease whilst in the womb, but this starts to wear off once they arrive in the big wide world. Hence, the immunisation programme has been designed with this in mind so they are provided with the greatest amount of protection when they need it most. The first round of vaccinations begin at eight weeks old and studies have shown that babies of this age are less likely to have an adverse reaction to the vaccine.