Your Child’s Vaccinations Common Questions157
Below are the answers to the questions you may want to know before you take your baby for the vaccines.
Why do we need vaccinations?
Our immune system is our natural defence against disease. The immune system produces substances called antibodies, which fight off infection and prevent disease. In some cases, though, our immune systems need a bit of help. Vaccinations strengthen your child's immune system to fight off diseases that could cause lasting damage to their health or could kill them.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines contain a small part of the bacterium or virus that causes a disease, or tiny amounts of chemicals that the bacterium or virus produce. Vaccines expose your immune system to that particular organism and work by encouraging the body's immune system to make antibodies and memory cells.
If your child comes into contact with an infection they've been vaccinated against, the memory cells will recognise it and will be ready to fight the infection.
An example to consider, if diseases like polio have almost disappeared in Bangladesh, why do we need to vaccinate against them?
In Bangladesh, this disease is prevented by high vaccination rates. The vaccines protect entry of the infection into the community. Around the world, more than 15 million people a year die from infectious diseases. Over half are children under the age of five.
Vaccinations don't only protect your child. They also help to protect your family and the whole community, especially those children who, for medical reasons, can't have the vaccination.
How do we know that vaccines are safe?
Before they can be licensed, all medicines (including vaccines) are thoroughly tested to check their safety and effectiveness. After they have been licensed, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored.
Any rare side effects that are discovered can then be investigated further. All medicines can cause side effects but vaccines are among the safest.
Won't having an injection upset my baby?
Your baby may cry and be upset for a few minutes but will usually settle after a cuddle.
Will there be any side effects?
Side effects are less common than many people think and are usually mild. Some babies will have redness or swelling in the place where they had the injection, but this will soon go away. Others might feel a bit irritable or unwell or have a slight temperature.
Is it safe to take my baby swimming around the time of a vaccination?
Yes. You can take your baby swimming at any time before and after their vaccinations.
Are vaccinations safe for babies with allergies?
Yes. They are safe for babies with asthma, eczema, hayfever and food and drug allergies. If you have any questions, speak to your practice nurse or your doctor.
Are some babies allergic to vaccines?
In rare cases, children can have an allergic reaction soon after a vaccination. This will usually be a rash or itching that affects part or all of their body. The reaction is more likely to be caused by an element used in preparing the vaccine rather than the organism or their toxin. The nurse giving the vaccine will know how to treat this.
In even rarer cases, children may have a severe anaphylactic reaction within a few minutes of having the vaccination, leading to breathing difficulties and, in some cases, collapse.
A recent study has shown that only one anaphylactic reaction is reported in about a million vaccinations. The people who give vaccinations are trained to deal with anaphylactic reactions and, as long as they're treated quickly, children will make a complete recovery.
Is there any reason why my baby shouldn't have vaccinations?
There are very few reasons why babies can't have vaccinations. Vaccines should not be given to babies who have had a confirmed allergic reaction to a previous dose of that specific vaccine or to something in the vaccine.
In general, children who are 'immunosuppressed' should not be given live vaccines. This includes children who are being treated for a serious condition (like an organ transplant or cancer) or who have a condition that affects their immune system, such as severe primary immunodeficiency. If this applies to your child, always tell your practice nurse or doctor before a vaccination. They will need to get specialist advice on using live vaccines such as MMR and BCG.
What if my baby is ill on the day of the appointment?
If your baby has a minor illness without a fever, such as a cold, they should have their vaccinations as normal. If your baby is ill with a fever, put off the vaccination until they're better. It's a good idea to book a replacement appointment straight away so the vaccination isn't delayed by more than a week.
How will I know when the my baby’s next vaccine is due?
You baby will be vaccinated right after birth with BCG. If not, the next vaccines start from 6th week. Your doctor will tell you when the next vaccines are due and you will be given an immunisation card where it will be marked.
What if I miss a vaccination appointment?
If you missed the appointment or delayed the immunisation, make a new appointment. You can pick up the immunisation schedule where it stopped without having to start again.
Can premature baby receive vaccines according to the regular schedule or should we wait until they’ve grown more?
Premature babies may be at higher risk of catching infections so it’s really important that they have their vaccinations on time, ie from two months of age, no matter how premature they were.
It may seem very early to give a vaccination to such a tiny baby, but many scientific studies have shown that it’s a good time to give them vaccines. Postponing vaccination until they're older leaves premature babies vulnerable to diseases.