Childhood Vaccinations - Essential information

One of the best ways to protect your child is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations at the time they are recommended.

Vaccinations can save your child’s life

Infectious diseases continue to cause significant harm to children across the world, with some even dying as a result. Don’t let your child be one of them.

Vaccinations are very safe and effective 

  • Vaccines are only licensed for children after long and careful development and testing by researchers and doctors.
  • Vaccines will involve some discomfort such as pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection. This is small compared to the pain, discomfort and trauma of the diseases these vaccines protect against.
  • Fever can be expected after any vaccination but is more common with the Men B vaccine. Give paracetamol with or soon after Men B vaccination. Do not wait for a fever to develop. This will reduce the risk of your child having a fever in the first place.
  • Serious side effects following vaccination are very rare.

Vaccinating your child protects others you care about

Some babies are too young to receive certain vaccines. Others may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to pre-existing conditions including severe allergies, weakened immune systems or other reasons. To help keep them safe until they can receive vaccinations themselves, it is important that you and any other children in your family are vaccinated. This not only protects you but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to other members of your immediate family, friends and other loved ones.

Read the routine childhood immunisation schedule

Read NHS advice about why vaccination is safe and important and about common myths. 

 

Please see below for a video on childhood vaccinations.

Babies and pre-schoolers will usually get their jabs at their GP surgery. School age children will often get their jabs via the school nursing teams.

  • Dress your baby in clothes that are easy to remove – babies have injections in their thigh
  • Dress toddlers and older children in loose or short sleeves – they'll usually have their injections in their arm
  • Stay calm during the vaccination – it's natural to worry but it might make your child anxious
  • Let your child know what's going to happen in simple language – for example, "you may feel a sharp scratch that will go away very fast"
  • Hold your child on your knee during the injection – if you're worried about seeing injections you could ask a nurse or another member of staff to hold them for you
  • Distraction helps - you can get your child to take a deep breath and pretend to blow bubbles. You could bring a favourite toy or book with you
  • Try not to apologise to them for their injections as it helps if your child thinks of injections as a good thing
  • You may want to bring a reward for them to have afterwards

It may help your child if you have spoken to them about what to expect before their appointment. 

Videos for children which may help prepare them for their jabs:

Pre-school children: How Do Injections Help You? by Dr Ranj

School age children: Operation Ouch’s Dr Chris and Dr Xand explain what vaccines are

For more information on vaccine tips for parents.

 

All children between 2 and 11 years of age should receive the children's flu vaccine. This is not only to stop them getting unwell with flu, but also to stop them spreading flu to other members of your family.

There are other groups of children with long-term health conditions that should have the flu vaccine every year. This includes children with weakened immune systems (including those on steroids or with problems with their spleen), chronic heart or lung problems, diabetes, asthma, chronic kidney or liver disease. It is especially important that these children are vaccinated because they have the greatest risk of becoming very unwell if they get flu. Children aged from 6 months to 2 years who are at risk from complications of flu should be given the inactivated (injected) flu vaccine rather than the intranasal vaccine.

Common myths about flu and the flu vaccine

'Flu isn't serious, so my child doesn't need a flu vaccine' and 'My children never get ill, so they don't need the vaccine'

It is tempting to think that flu is no worse than a bad cold. In fact it is a serious disease which can infect anyone and can cause serious complications. For people at risk of complications e.g. grandparents or other vulnerable household members, flu can lead to hospitalisation or even death. Flu leads to hundreds of thousands of GP visits and tens of thousands of hospital stays a year.

'Last year my children had the flu vaccine but they got ill anyway, so it doesn't work'

No vaccine is 100% effective, including the flu vaccine. However, the vaccine usually prevents about half of all flu cases. For people who get flu after being vaccinated, the disease is often milder than it would have been. It is important to remember that the flu vaccine only protects against flu. There are other illnesses which have flu-like symptoms which you can still catch after getting the flu vaccine. It takes up to 2 weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so you could still catch flu during this time. Getting vaccinated as early as possible in the season can help to prevent this.

Unfortunately, as these vaccine preventable infections become less and less common, social media coverage on vaccines increasingly focuses on their side effects and adverse reactions.

The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Sadly, several years ago incorrect information about this caused parents to worry. This led to a drop in the number of children getting their MMR vaccine.

We are now seeing more and more cases of measles in the UK and Europe. This has resulted in severe illness and even deaths in a number of adults and children.

You may think that your child will be protected by herd immunity (other people being vaccinated around them). This is no longer the case with MMR because far less than the required 95% of the population are being vaccinated.

In addition, if your child travels abroad (even when they are an adult) or comes into contact with someone with measles who is visiting from abroad, they will be completely unprotected and may contract the illness.

Measles is highly infectious and is spread by water droplets, coughed or sneezed by infected individuals.

More information about the safety of the MMR vaccine and parent stories can be found on the Vaccine Knowledge Project website by the University of Oxford.

It’s normal to have questions about any medication that you’re giving to your child and vaccines are no different. The most common questions that parents ask are:

Why should I have my child vaccinated?

Won’t herd immunity protect them? Herd immunity does not protect against all diseases.

The best example of this is tetanus. Tetanus is caught from bacteria in the environment, not from other people who have the disease.

For herd immunity to work properly, most people in the population need to be vaccinated. There are low vaccination rates in some parts of the UK and in some communities, as well as in many overseas countries. This means that if your child is not vaccinated, it is quite likely that many of the people they come into contact with will also not be vaccinated. So if one person gets an infectious disease, it can spread quickly through all the unvaccinated people in the group (this happened during the 2013 measles outbreak in Wales).

Won’t having several vaccines at the same time overload my baby’s immune system?

Parents often worry that a child’s immune system will not be able to cope with several vaccines at once. In fact, even a tiny baby’s immune system can cope easily.

Starting from birth, babies come into contact with millions of germs every day. It is estimated that the human body contains enough white blood cells to cope with thousands of vaccines at any one time.

If a child was given 11 vaccines at once, it would only use about a thousandth of the immune system.

It is not a good idea to delay vaccinations to ‘spread the load’ because it leaves your child unprotected against serious diseases for longer.

How do I know that vaccines are safe?

All vaccines go through a long and thorough process of development and testing before they are licensed for use.

Vaccines have to be tested on adults and children separately before they can be used for different age groups. This is because vaccines that work in adults may not work so well in children.

No vaccines are tested on children before they have been fully tested on adults. Click here for more information about vaccine safety and side effects.

Click here for more information about common questions, concerns and comments that people have about vaccines


Midwives provide advice, care and support for women and their babies during pregnancy, labour and the early postnatal period. They provide health education and parenting advice until care is transferred to a health visitor. This usually happens when your baby is about 2 weeks old.

Sound Advice

 

A midwife is an expert in normal pregnancy and birth.

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice about a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents/carers and young people more information about other organisations that might be able to also help them with healthy eating.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.

 

Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 01924 310130

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

 

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses01924 310130

Leeds School Nurses - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of five. If your child is under five years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.