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Vaccination information for parents & young people

Keeping your child healthy is bound to be at the forefront of your mind. Children will get colds and sniffles and cope quite well with love and care but they need help to fight off more serious infections. One way to gain protection comes from vaccination, which can protect a child against diseases into adulthood.

What is vaccination?

Vaccination protects children and adults against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.

Vaccination uses the body’s natural defence mechanism, the immune response, to build resistance to specific infections.

Your doctor, practice nurse or school nurse will usually give a vaccine.

Why get children vaccinated?

  • In the first months of a baby’s life they are protected from most infections by antibodies provided by their mothers, which are transferred during pregnancy.
  • When these antibodies wear off, the baby is at risk of serious infections and so the first vaccines are given before these antibodies have gone.
  • These first vaccinations do not build lifelong immunity and need topping up.
  • As children get older and reach their teens there are other infections they are at risk from and further vaccination is available to protect them.

What vaccinations do children need and when should they have them?

  • In England information about free immunisation can be found on the NHS website along with helpful print outs and planners, such as the NHS vaccinations schedule.
  • Parents and carers can use the vaccination planner for children born from 2004 onwards and get a free print out to stick to their fridge.
  • In the related links on this page you will also find a useful schedule of vaccinations over a lifetime to print out, which includes information on vaccinations available to pregnant women.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination

Measles, mumps and rubella are common highly infectious viruses, which are airborne and can cause conditions with high temperatures and nasty rash. They can lead to serious complications such as meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness. Children can be protected by having two doses of MMR vaccine. It's important to make sure your children are up-to-date with the MMR vaccination before starting the school. For more information please visit the NHS Choices website.

Teenage Booster Vaccine

The teenage booster (known as the 3-in-1 or the Td/IPV vaccine) is given as a single injection to boost the protection against tetanus, diphtheria and polio. This booster jab is given by school nurses at schools along Meningitis jab at the same time. For more information please visit the NHS Choices website.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls in Year 8

Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer for women aged under 35. The HPV jab will give protection against HPV which causes 70% of cervical cancer. This vaccination is offered to girls in Year 8 by school nurses through the school. The HPV vaccine is currently given as two injections, the second one is given six months after the first jab. For more information please visit the NHS Choices website.

MenACWY vaccine

Teenagers and "fresher" students going to university for the first time are advised to have a vaccination to prevent meningitis and septicaemia, which can be deadly. Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia) caused by a highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria have been rising since 2009. Older teenagers and new university students are at higher risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats. Anyone who is eligible for the MenACWY vaccine should have it, even if they've previously had the Men C vaccine. The MenACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing illness caused by the four meningococcal strains, including the virulent Men W strain. The MenACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia): A, C, W and Y. The MenACWY vaccine is called Nimenrix. Read the patient information leaflet for Nimenrix (PDF, 385kb).

The MenACWY vaccination is being offered to teenagers and also to first-time college and university students who haven't already had the vaccination. Children aged 13 to 14 (school year 9) are being offered the MenACWY vaccine in school as part of the routine adolescent schools programme, alongside the 3-in-1 teenage booster, and as a direct replacement for the Men C vaccination. Students going to university or college for the first time, including overseas and mature students, who have not yet had the MenACWY vaccine remain eligible up to their 25th birthday. They should contact their GP to have the MenACWY vaccine before starting university or college. If that's not possible, they should have it as soon as they can after they arrive. For more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/men-acwy-vaccine/

Last reviewed: 06/09/2019