Immunisation information for parents

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 immunisation, which can protect a child against diseases into adulthood.

What is Immunisation?

  • Immunisation protects children and adults against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.
  • Immunisation uses the body’s natural defense mechanism, the immune response to build resistance to specific infections.
  • Your doctor, practice nurse or school nurse will give a vaccine to start the process of immunisation.

What are vaccines?

  • Vaccines contain a weakened or inactive form of the disease.
  • Vaccines can be given as an injection, drops to take by mouth, or a nasal spray.

Why get children immunised?

  • A number of immunisations are given in the first few years of a child’s life to protect against the most serious infections of childhood.
  • The immune system in young children is still developing and does not work as well as the immune systems of older children and adults.
  • 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 immunisations 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.
Last reviewed: 30/09/2016