Vaccinations are a safe and important way of protecting your baby against lots of different illnesses and diseases.
You’ll find all the information you need about which vaccinations your baby will be offered and when in the Red Book (your child’s personal health record), but this information is also available on the NHS website.
What’s the difference between immunisations and vaccinations?
In everyday language, both words are used to refer to the same thing. ‘Immunisation’ is the process of becoming immune to a disease, which means your body is able to fight it off. ‘Vaccination’ is when you’re given a vaccine either via an injection or by mouth to help your body develop immunity to a particular disease.
You will be contacted by your GP surgery with an appointment, or will be asked to make an appointment for your baby to have their vaccinations. This will usually be with the practice nurse.
If your baby has a temperature or is a bit unwell, they may advise you to wait a few days. Vaccines are given according to a baby’s actual age, so you don’t need to worry if your baby was born early.
If your baby was born in another country, your GP practice will review their records and may offer you additional appointments to make sure your baby is protected in line with the UK vaccination schedule.
Often parents find it a bit upsetting when their babies have their first vaccinations, so talk to the nurse if you’re feeling worried. Depending on the vaccination, it will either be given by injection (usually into the top of the baby’s thigh), by drops in the mouth or with a nasal spray. Some vaccinations are given as a single-dose, whereas others are given via an injection made up of several vaccines.
After having the vaccination, your baby may be unsettled or have a slight temperature. You can give infant paracetamol according to the manufacturer’s dosage instructions. Rarely, there may be other side effects such as:
- Pain, swelling or redness at the site of the injection
- Feeling sick, or vomiting
Talk to your health visitor or GP if you have any concerns. You can also find the answers to seven immunisation questions that parents often ask here.
Information about the BCG vaccine
The BCG vaccine will protect against tuberculosis, which is also known as TB.
Your baby won’t need the vaccine unless they are considered to be at an increased risk of coming into contact with TB. It’s recommended in babies and children who:
- are born in areas of the UK where TB rates are high
- have a parent or grandparent who was born in a country where there’s a high rate of TB
- live with, or are close contacts of, someone with infectious TB
If you feel you meet the above criteria, speak to your health visitor for further information.
If they need the vaccine, it’ll usually be offered at around 28 days old after receiving results from their heel prick test. Watch this video for more information:
- Schedule of UK Vaccinations
- Children’s vaccinations myth-busting
- Fact sheet 2: Parent tips (Institute of Health Visiting)
- Leaflet: Protecting your baby against meningitis and septicaemia
- Leaflet: A guide to immunisations up to one year of age (born before Jan 2020)
- Leaflet: A guide to immunisations up to one year of age (born on or after 1st Jan 2020)