Most of us know that our children need to be vaccinated, but we don’t always know which vaccines our children need at specific ages.
The following routine immunisation schedule applies to children in the UK:
- At two months old: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis ( whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b or Hib (DTaP/IPV/Hib / 5-in-1 vaccine), pneumococcal infection (PCV) vaccine, Men B vaccine, and an oral vaccine against rotavirus infection to help prevent diarrhoea and sickness.
- At three months: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), (DTaP/IPV/Hib) second dose and rotavirus second dose. The meningitis C (Men C) at three months was stopped in July 2016. Men C vaccination is still given at 12 months and in a combined vaccine at age 14 years and to new university students aged 19-25 years.
- At four months: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) third dose, Men B second dose, and pneumococcal infection (PCV) second dose.
- Between 12-13 months: Measles, mumps and rubella (the MMR vaccine), Men C (first dose) and Haemophilus influenzae type b (fourth dose), pneumococcal infection (PCV) third dose, and Men B vaccine third dose.
- At three years and four months or soon after: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and polio (DTaP/IPV / 4-in-1 pre-school booster), and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) second dose.
- Girls aged 12-13 years: cervical cancer ( HPV) vaccine to protect against cervical cancer and genital warts. Two injections given 6-12 months apart.
- At 14 years: diphtheria, tetanus and polio (Td/IPV), or 3-in-1, teenage booster.
- At 14 years and new university students aged 19-25: Men ACWY vaccine.
A nasal flu vaccine is offered to all children aged two, three and four years old, plus those children in school years one and two. From October 2016 this will be extended to school year 3 in England too.
Eventually, the NHS plans to offer annual flu vaccination to all children aged 2 to 16.
The importance of vaccination for children
Vaccination is the best way we have to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Many diseases that were once prevalent in this country are now at their lowest levels in decades thanks to vaccination.
Next to sanitation and clean drinking water, vaccines have been called the greatest public health intervention in history. Vaccinations have saved the lives of millions over the years and have prevented hundreds of millions of cases of disease.
Why do we need a childhood immunisation programme?
Because of a child's developing immune system, doctors have found that vaccines work best when they are given at certain ages. For example, measles vaccine is not usually given to children until they are at least a year old. If it is given earlier it might not work as well.
Also, some vaccines require multiple (booster) doses before immunisation is complete. For these to be effective, it is important that the doses are not given too close to one another. This is why doctors have developed programmes for vaccinating your children. However, the schedules are fairly flexible, and if a child misses a recommended dose at a given age he or she can catch up later.