Vaccinations for babies, children and teens
As a parent, there's a lot to think about. While you can let some of those things slide (one mouthful of veggies? success!), it's really important to keep on top of your child's vaccinations. Here you can find out which vaccinations your baby, child or teen need, and when they need to have them done
The vaccinations your baby needs are:
- Six-in-one vaccine
- Pneumococcal or pneumo jab
- Rotavirus vaccine
- Men B vaccine
- Hib/Men C vaccine
- MMR vaccine
The vaccinations children aged two and over need are:
The vaccinations teens aged 12 and over need are:
There are some vaccines that are offered on the NHS to 'at-risk' groups of babies and children in addition to the routine programme of vaccines. These are:
What vaccinations does my baby need?
Targeted vaccines that may be given at birth or shortly after
The BCG (tuberculosis) vaccination protects against tuberculosis (TB).
It is given to babies and children from birth who have a high chance of coming into contact with tuberculosis.
Hepatitis B vaccination
The hepatitis B vaccination protects against hepatitis B.
The vaccine is given to children at high risk of exposure to hepatitis B, and babies born to infected mothers.
It is given as six doses over 12 months – a baby born to a mother infected with hepatitis B will be given a dose at birth, followed by further doses at four, eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age, and a final dose at one year old.
Vaccines routinely offered to all babies and children
The six-in-one vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b) and hepatitis B.
It is given at eight, 12 and 16 weeks of age to all babies born on or after 1 August 2017, and is injected into your baby's thigh.
The vaccine is killed (inactivated), which means it doesn't contain any live organisms, so there's no risk of your baby getting the diseases it protects against from the vaccination.
The vaccine also has few side effects, although it's common for babies to be a little irritable afterwards. They may also have short-lived redness, swelling and a small bump at the injection site.
The vast majority of babies can have the six-in-one jab, but there are a few that shouldn't. This includes babies that:
- are allergic to the vaccine
- have a fever at the time of the vaccination appointment
- have signs of a neurological problem that is getting worse, including poorly controlled epilepsy
Pneumococcal or pneumo jab (PCV)
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections. It's also known as the 'pneumo jab' or pneumonia vaccine.
Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a kind of blood poisoning) and meningitis.
Babies receive the pneumococcal vaccine as three separate injections: at eight weeks, 16 weeks and one year of age.
Like most vaccines, the childhood and adult versions of the pneumococcal vaccine can sometimes cause mild side effects, including:
- a mild fever
- redness at the site of the injection
- hardness or swelling at the site of the injection
Occasionally, you or your child may need to delay having the vaccination or avoid it completely because of the following:
- A vaccine allergy. If your child has had a confirmed severe allergic reaction, or anaphylactic reaction, to the pneumococcal vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine, it's best to avoid having it. However, if it was only a mild reaction, such as a rash, it's generally safe to have the vaccine.
- A fever at the vaccination appointment. If you or your child are mildly unwell at the time of the vaccination, it's safe to have the vaccine. However, if you or your child are more seriously ill – for example, with a high temperature – it's best to delay the vaccination until after recovery.
The rotavirus vaccine protects against rotavirus infection, a common cause of childhood diarrhoea and sickness.
The vaccine is given at eight and 12 weeks of age, in the form of a liquid straight into the baby's mouth for them to swallow.
The vast majority of babies won't have any problems at all after having their rotavirus vaccination, although some babies who have the vaccine may become restless and irritable, and some may develop mild diarrhoea in the days following vaccination.
Men B vaccine
The Men B vaccine protects against meningitis B (which is caused by meningococcal type B bacteria).
The vaccine is given at eight weeks, 16 weeks and one year of age, as a single injection into your baby's thigh.
The Men B vaccine can be given at the same time as other routine baby vaccinations, such as the six-in-1 vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine.
Babies given the Men B vaccine alongside their other routine vaccinations at eight and 16 weeks are likely to develop fever within the first 24 hours after vaccination.
It's important that you give your baby three doses liquid infant paracetamol (120mg per ml) at four to six hourly intervals following vaccination to reduce the risk of fever. Your nurse will give you more information about paracetamol at your vaccination appointment. For more information, see this leaflet.
Other common side effects include irritability and redness and tenderness at the injection site. The liquid paracetamol will also help with these symptoms.
Hib/Men C vaccine
The vaccine is given as a single injection to babies at one year old to boost their protection against Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and meningitis C.
Hib and meningitis C infections are serious and potentially fatal. They can both cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
The vaccine boosts the protection your baby has already gained from their first course of Hib vaccine, which they received in the six-in-one vaccine at eight, 12 and 16 weeks old, and begins their protection against meningitis C.
The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
The vaccine is given as two single injections at one year and at three years and four months of age.
The MMR vaccine can sometimes be given to babies from six months of age if they may have been exposed to the measles virus, or during a measles outbreak.
The side effects of the MMR vaccine are usually mild. It's important to remember that they're milder than the potential complications of measles, mumps and rubella.
Side effects include:
- Following the first dose of MMR vaccine, tiredness, fever and/or a rash may occur, most commonly about a week after immunisation, and last about two to three days. The rash is not infectious
- Neck swelling can occur rarely in children up to four years, usually about three weeks after vaccination
- In rare cases, a small rash of bruise-like spots that appears a few weeks after the injection. See your GP if you notice this kind of rash, or if you have any concerns about your child's symptoms after having the MMR jab
What vaccines do children aged two and over need?
Children's flu vaccine
The children's flu vaccine protects against influenza and is given annually as a nasal spray in September/October for all children aged two and three years on 31 August 2017 and those from reception class to school Year 4. You can find more information on when your child should have their flu vaccine here.
As well as the routine flu programme for children, those aged from six months to 17 years with an underlying health conditions that place them at increased risk of the complications of flu can have the flu vaccine. These risk groups include those with chronic heart, lung, liver and kidney conditions, immunosuppression and neurological conditions.
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children, with potentially serious complications, including bronchitis, pneumonia and rarely death.
The nasal flu vaccine has few side effects – most commonly getting a runny nose after vaccination for a few days.
There are a few children who should avoid the nasal spray flu vaccine.
The vaccine is not recommended for children who have:
- a severely weakened immune system
- a severe egg allergy requiring admission to intensive care
- severe asthma – that is, those being treated with steroid tablets or high-dose inhaled steroids
- an allergy to any of the vaccine ingredients, such as neomycin
Children unable to have the nasal spray vaccine may be able to have the injectable flu vaccine instead.
4-in-1 pre-school booster
The four-in-one pre-school booster protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio and is given at three years and four months of age as a single injection into your child's upper arm.
The pre-school booster can be given at the same time as other vaccines. It's usually given at the same time as the second dose of the MMR vaccine.
Side effects of the four-in-one vaccine are usually mild. Your child may get a little redness, swelling or tenderness where the injection was given. This will disappear on its own.
The vast majority of children can have the four-in-one booster vaccine, but it should not be given to children who have had an anaphylactic reaction (severe allergic reaction) to any part of the vaccine before.
What vaccines do teens aged 12 and above need?
HPV vaccine (girls only)
The HPV vaccine protects girls against cervical cancer and is given at 12-13 years as two injections at least six months apart.
The vaccine is currently given as a series of two injections into the upper arm. It's important to have both doses to be protected.
Studies have already shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least ten years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer.
But because the HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it's important that all girls who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25.
Three-in-one teenage booster
The three-in-one teenage booster protects against tetanus, diphtheria and polio and is given at 14 years as a single injection into the upper arm.
It's routinely given at secondary school (in school year nine) at the same time as the MenACWY vaccine.
Parents will be sent a letter from their child's school shortly before the vaccinations are planned, to ask for their or their child's consent.
The MenACWY vaccine protects against meningitis (caused by meningococcal types A, C, W and Y bacteria) and is given as a single injection into the upper arm at 14 years and to new university students aged 19-25.
Cases of meningitis and septicaemia due to Men W have been increasing in England, from 22 cases in 2009/10 to 210 in 2016/17.
The increase is almost entirely due to the aggressive Men W strain. Although this is rare, it can spread rapidly and cause serious illness in otherwise-healthy children and adults.
Like all vaccines, the MenACWY vaccine can cause side effects, but they are generally mild and soon settle down.
The most common side effects seen in teenagers and young people are redness, hardening and itching at the injection site, fever, headache, nausea and fatigue. These symptoms should last no more than 24 hours.
Sometimes, a small, painless lump develops, but this usually disappears in a few weeks.
You should also check with the doctor or nurse before having the MenACWY vaccine if you:
- have a bleeding problem, such as haemophilia, or bruise easily
- have a high temperature
- are pregnant or breastfeeding
Vaccinations not available as part of the routine childhood immunisation programme (ie must be paid for privately)
The chickenpox vaccine protects against chickenpox and is given to siblings of children who have suppressed immune systems and are susceptible to chickenpox, for example because they're having cancer treatment or have had an organ transplant.
The vaccine is given from one year of age upwards. Children receive two doses of chickenpox vaccine given four to eight weeks apart.
After the vaccination
After the vaccination, make sure that the type of injection (and where it was given) is noted down in your red book and in your child's GP records.
Your child may develop a mild fever after the vaccination. If this happens, you can give them infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring their temperature down.
With the Men B vaccination, it's recommended that you routinely give your baby liquid paracetamol after the vaccination to reduce the risk of fever.
A serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a vaccination is very rare. The people who give vaccinations are trained to deal with anaphylactic reactions and, with treatment, children recover completely.
Before the injection, tell the nurse about any bad reactions your child has had after any previous vaccinations.
What to do if you miss a vaccination
Don't panic. You don't have to start the course of vaccines again, just make a new appointment as soon as you can.