Getting immunisations sorted for your child can feel like a bit of a daunting task. How will you know what vaccinations are needed? Or what age your child will need them at? And why do we have them in the first place?
On this page, we will look to answer any questions you may have about the vaccination process and how can support you and your child in this part of your healthcare journey.
Vaccinations are an essential and standard part of care for each and every child. They are so important because not only do they keep your child and family safe from ill health and disease, but they also keep our communities well.
Did you know that our GPatHand patients can get all their NHS recommended vaccinations at clinics? Our friendly and experienced practice nurses will be able to set you and your child at ease and make the process as quick and easy as possible.
1. What are they?
A vaccine is a clever way of exposing your immune system to a disease before you have had it. They contain a modified form of the virus, bacteria or toxin which causes a disease.
Most vaccinations are injections but some are given orally or even up your nose!
2. Why are they a good thing?
Vaccines are a safe way to teach your body how to act when exposed to an illness. They enable our immune system to practice responding to a disease and develop the tools our bodies need (brilliant proteins called antibodies) to fight it.
This is a good thing as your immune system has had the opportunity to make antibodies to protect against a disease before you have had it.
The vaccinations in the immunisations schedule are all for diseases which are dangerous and even, in the worst case scenario, deadly.
Vaccinations are so effective that they can help to prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.
3. How do they help my child?
What that means is if your child comes into contact with a disease that they have been immunised against, their immune system recognises it from the vaccine and can make those same antibodies again to fight the disease.
This can stop the disease in its tracks before it makes your child unwell.
4. How do they help the community?
Have you heard of ‘Herd Immunity’? This is a pretty cool concept. The basic principle of it is that if your child has been vaccinated, it stops them from catching a disease. This in turn means that they cannot pass it on. So when enough people are vaccinated, it can stop a disease circulating in a community as a whole.
This helps protect the people who need it most. From newborns who are too young to be
vaccinated to people who are on medication which suppresses their immune systems, such as cancer patients.
However, it only works when enough people around them are vaccinated which is why good vaccination uptake in communities is so important.
5. How do I know they are safe?
If you find the idea of a vaccine scary, rest assured that the virus, bacteria or toxin which is given as part of the vaccine is either in a weakened or ‘killed’ state. What this means is that there is enough of it for the body to develop an immune response to it but not enough to make your child catch the disease or suffer long term effects from it.1
It is also important to know that each vaccine is rigorously tested before it is rolled out. Scientists have to put vaccines through multiple stages of clinical trials before they are allowed to be used in the community.
It is also important to consider the safety of not having a vaccination and weighing this up. For example, although a condition like measles can cause mild disease in some, it can make others very unwell and even lead to complications such as infection of the lungs or the brain.
6. My child has been fully vaccinated in another country, why do they need any more vaccinations?
Many of our patients have lived abroad. Vaccination schedules can vary between different countries. This is because patterns of disease and the number of people who have it can vary from place to place so the level of risk is different depending on where you are.
For example, vaccines may be recommended at different ages or the number of vaccines given may be different. This means that if you have recently moved to the UK and your child was fully vaccinated in the country you were living in, they may not be up to date with their vaccinations according to the UK schedule.
This may all be sounding a bit complicated. Don’t worry, we are here to help. When you register your child with GP at Hand, you will also be asked to provide information on what immunisations they have had.
These records will then be reviewed by our highly experienced practice nurses who will be able to tell you if your child will need additional catch-up immunisations to get them in line with the UK schedule.5
You can also book an appointment to discuss any questions you may have with one of our practice nurses in our app.
7. English isn’t my first language, how will I communicate with the Practice Nurse?
If English is not your first language, you may feel nervous about communicating in appointments. We can support you by booking interpreters to help with translation at the time of your appointment. This means you and your child fully understand what is happening next and don’t feel left in the dark.
If you need an interpreter for your appointment, please contact support on 0330 808 2217 to set this up
At the appointment, they will be able to explain to you what immunisations they are giving and answer any questions you may have too.
8. What Immunisations does my child need in the UK?
The Vaccination schedule can change from time to time.
You can find a copy of the current schedule in your Red Book.
You can also find an updated schedule on the NHS link here. This also has some extra information on the individual vaccines.
9. How will I know when my child needs their vaccination?
Keeping on top of when vaccinations are due can be tricky, especially as the vaccination schedule can change from time to time. GPatHand will contact you, via text, phone or email, when your child’s immunisations are due and send you follow up messages in case you have forgotten.
10. What if I miss an appointment?
If you miss an appointment or have to delay it for some reason, it is important that you make another one as soon as you are able to, even if your child seems to be out of sync with the official schedule.
We can then review their vaccination records and advise you on next steps.
11. Why do you vaccinate babies?
The vaccination programme starts when children are young. This is important because babies are often very vulnerable to these diseases so if they caught them in their first years of life, they may become more unwell from them.
It has also been shown to be safe to have a few vaccinations at the same time, even at an early age 6.
Starting immunisations from 8 weeks provides the best protection for children, earliest on in their lives.
12. What happens if my baby is premature?
No matter how early your child was born, it is still recommended to have the vaccines at the same number of weeks they were recommended after birth as children born at full term. .
In fact, it can be even more important with premature babies to have vaccinations at this time as they can be more vulnerable to these infections if they were to catch them.
13. Why do you give the same vaccine more than once?
You may have noticed that some vaccines are given a few times in the schedule. This is to make sure that your child is able to develop a full immune response to these specific diseases. This is not always possible with one vaccine only.
14. What side effects can children have with vaccines?
Mild side effects can be common after vaccinations, these include:
- Having a bit of redness or swelling around the injection site. It may also feel tender to touch.
- Having a temperature
- Feeling a bit under the weather or irritable.
The practice nurse will discuss these with you at the time as well as any queries you may have.
You may also find that your child can become upset when having their vaccinations. This generally only lasts for a few minutes and we are here to support your child (and you!) through this.
If these side effects persist or you are worried about your child, you can always reach out to GPatHand.
NHS 111 is also available 24/7 and of course, your local A+E as needed.
15. Do I have to have my child vaccinated?
Vaccinations are anessential and standard part of care for each and every child. Parents in the UK can decide whether or not to have their child immunised. However, we strongly recommend vaccination to help protect your child and the community.
If you choose not to have your child immunised, please remember, if you change your mind at any point, it is never too late for your child to be immunised.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with our friendly and knowledgeable practice nurses who can answer your queries directly.References:
1. Vaccines and immunization: What is vaccination?, WHO, August 2021
2. Why vaccination is safe and important, NHS, Review July 2019 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/why-vaccination-is-safe-and-important/
3. Herd immunity (Herd protection), University of Oxford - Vaccine Knowledge Project,Reviewed July 2019, https://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/vk/herd-immunity
4. Measles, NICE CKS, Reviewed 2018, https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/measles/
5. Vaccination schedules in other countries, Vaccination Knowledge Project, Updated May 2018, https://vk.ovg.ox.ac.uk/vk/vaccination-schedules-other-countries
6. A guide to immunisations for babies born on or after 1 January 2020, Gov.UK, Updated June 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-guide-to-immunisations-for-babies-up-to-13-months-of-age/a-guide-to-immunisations-for-babies-born-on-or-after-1-january-2020
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.