There seems to be a lot of confusion about whether or not babies should have their jabs. Doctors still say they should but there are many who claim vaccines can be harmful.
To jab or not to jab?
Some parents go so far as to skip inoculations altogether. Where will you find the best advice?
What does the National Health Service recommend for under 4’s?
It is your decision whether or not to get your child immunised but your GP or health visitor will recommend the following, based on current NHS advice.
At around 8 weeks they will call your baby in for the “5-in-1,” which is a single jab designed to vaccinate against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and hib, a bacterial infection that can cause meningitis or pneumonia. A second and third booster jab of the “5-in-one” is given at 3 and 4 months of age.
At 2 months, the pneumococcal vaccination is also given to fight off pneumococcal bacteria, another strain which can lead to pneumonia, septicemia and meningitis. Second and third booster jabs are given for this at 4 months and again around a child's first birthday.
A specific meningitis C vaccination is given at 3 months, 4 months and 12 months, while MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) are vaccinated against at 1 year and just over 3 years.
Finally, at 3 years and 4 months old the recommendation is for children to have the DTaP/IPV, which boosts a child’s defences against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.
How do vaccines actually work?
Vaccines contain a tiny part of the virus that causes each disease so they kick start the child's immune system into producing antibodies. If a child then comes into contact with any of the infections, those antibodies will automatically recognise the disease and react against it.
What can be the side effects?
Serious side effects are considered very rare and some soreness in the arm, leg or buttock where the needle has pierced the skin is often all a child will experience. Some children can develop mild cases of measles or mumps after getting the MMR jab while, in even rarer cases, some children may experience seizures. A serious allergic reaction can occur following any of the jabs but it is unusual and the medical staff who administer injections are trained to handle extreme reactions.
Have vaccines ruled out certain illnesses?
It is generally thought that because the vaccination program in the U.K. has been so successful, certain illnesses such as polio, which can lead to permanent paralysis, have been eradicated. However the Daily Mail reports that whooping cough cases are sharply on the rise in the U.K., with cases more than doubling over the same period between 2011 and 2012.
Tuberculosis has also become more prevalent so vaccines against TB are on the rise. The recommended vaccinations for children change from time to time to react to such developments so always check with your doctor that your child has all those they need.
How do you make a decision?
Arm yourself with information. Vaccinations are really important but if you are concerned about side effects speak to your GP, your local health visitor or call NHS Direct. There are always risks but vaccinations can prevent childhood illness and they are, statistically, much less likely to harm your child than the disease itself.