We asked our expert Consultant Paediatrician Dr Yiannis Ioannou which vaccinations your baby should have, and when
B: Why is it important to ensure babies keep their immunisation schedule?
Dr Yiannis: Generally speaking, there are very few reasons why a baby shouldn’t get vaccinated! There are recognised side effects such as a fever, redness and swelling at the injection site and these are very well documented.
The UK vaccination schedule is very comprehensive and covers nearly all available vaccines; it now includes Meningitis B and Hepatitis B vaccines.
B: Why is it important for babies to have immunisations at an early stage?
Dr Yiannis: Very young babies are most at risk of severe complications, so it’s really important to have them covered by their vaccinations at the right time. The schedule is planned to offer maximum protection from the earliest time possible.
There are some other immunisations that parents might want to consider offering their babies privately in addition to those currently on the schedule.
BCG: This is targeted according to the rates of TB (Tuberculosis) in the area where you live. London, for example, has a very migratory population, so some boroughs have higher rates of infection. Also, if you travel to countries where TB rates are higher, it may be worth protecting your baby; the vaccine can be given any time from birth. Ideally, it should be given sometime during your baby’s first year.
Chickenpox: This vaccine is not currently on the UK schedule, although it is one of the vaccines currently under regular review for addition. Chickenpox is a very common illness, yet it can have complications even in children with normal healthy immune systems. Mild complications would include things like scarring or even skin infections (cellulitis), while more severe effects might include sepsis, neurological and respiratory problems. Parents should be reassured that these complications are rare but if a child has other pre-existing health conditions or a suppressed immune system, they may be at greater risk. The vaccine is available privately for children over one year old.
Hepatitis A: This is included in many countries’ schedules as routine.
This disease can be contracted through contact with contaminated water, so if you and family regularly travel to countries where it is prevalent, it is worth considering having this. The vaccine is given as injections, usually after your baby is one year old.
Flu vaccine: Currently, all two- to eight-year-olds are offered this vaccine and it is given as a nasal spray. It is also possible to choose to have this privately for your baby from six months to two years of age as an injection.