The recent outbreaks of measles across parts of the UK have highlighted once again the very real importance of children having immunisations. From around the age of two months children will be given a series of immunisations against a variety of illnesses and diseases, and these should be topped up by boosters when the time is right.
Although parents do have a choice when it comes to immunisations, it is extremely risky to opt out since children are likely to be at a very grave risk for the rest of their childhood at least, and in some cases, for life.
It is too easy to dismiss serious diseases as being unlikely and rare, but of course the only reason they are rare is because of the widespread use of vaccines and the regular programme of immunising children.
The recent outbreak of measles in the UK is directly as a result of the scare a few years ago with regard to the MMR vaccine. A few years ago it was (wrongly) claimed that the MMR vaccine could trigger autism in children, and as a result a great many parents opted out of having their children immunised.
The result is that a few years later millions of children are at serious risk, and it shouldn’t be overlooked that most of these diseases which children should be vaccinated against can be life threatening.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines work by introducing a harmless version of the disease the vaccine is intended to protect against. So with measles a very weak, inert form of the measles virus is introduced. This is quite harmless, and cannot spread or cause the illness itself to develop.
What it does do is trigger the body’s natural immune system into analysing the virus, and developing antibodies to defend against it. This then gives the child’s immune system a permanent record of the disease and a way of fighting it effectively.
What Symptoms Can Occur Following A Vaccine?
Once a vaccine is administered you may notice a small red bump, possibly some bruising and a slight rash in the area, although this will usually go within a couple of days.
It is normal for children to feel a little under the weather for a day or two, and with the MMR vaccine it is possible that between a week and two weeks after the jab the child develops mild symptoms of any of the three diseases. This may include symptoms such as a rash, spots, swelling or a fever. These symptoms will usually pass quite quickly, and shouldn’t be any cause for alarm.
Of course, if you are at all worried about your child following a vaccine then do speak to your doctor, health visitor or call the NHS helpline on 0845 4647.
What Vaccines Should A Young Child Have?
A child’s vaccines will begin at the age of 2 months, when he or she will be immunised against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenza type b, and pneumococcal infection.
The next round of immunisations will be a month later at age 3 months. These will include diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenza type b, and meningitis C (meningococcal infection). Some of these seem to be repeated from the previous month, but this is because a series of very mild vaccines need to be administered to gradually build up the immunity, otherwise they may have an adverse effect on the young baby.
A month later, at 4 months old they will be ready for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenza type b, pneumococcal infection and meningitis C. The good news is that once these have been done you and your child can take a break from jabs and needles for about 8 months!
Once your child reaches the age of 1 year they will need to have their Haemophilus influenza type b and meningitis C vaccines, and then a month later, at 13 months old, that is when they have the MMR vaccine, which includes measles, mumps and rubella, as well as a vaccine for pneumococcal infection.
Your child will then be fully immunised, and won’t need any further vaccines or boosters until they near school age, or nursery age. Between the ages of 3-5 years old they will need to have their fourth diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio vaccines, and a second MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.
If you forget about an appointment, or miss booking your child in, then make sure you speak to your GP as soon as possible as they will still be able to administer a suitable booster vaccine in most cases.
Never choose against having your child immunised just because of hearsay about risks, or because you think there’s no risk, or even because you just don’t like doctors, hospitals or needles. Immunisations save lives, and the recent news across the UK is a stark warning as to how true this is.