According to experts immunisation is a cost effective and critical element of preventive care around the world – the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate that it prevents between two and three million deaths each year.
But recent stats have revealed fewer children are being vaccinated against potentially fatal illnesses.
NHS data shows the number of two year olds immunised against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) fell for the fourth year in a row in 2017-18.
Just over nine in 10 (91.2%) of two-year-olds had had the MMR in 2017-18, down from 92.3% in 2012-13.
Meanwhile the number of children receiving the five-in-one vaccine (DTaP/IPV/Hib) also fell to 95.1% of children, the lowest rate since 2008.
The single injection protects against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b).
Children are now offered the six-in-one vaccine which also protects against hepatitis B.
Commenting on the recent figures, Helen Donovan, professional lead for public health at the Royal College of Nursing, told BBC: “For the first time last year, Britain was declared free of endemic measles, but these figures show we are turning the clock back and leaving thousands of children unprotected.
“Coverage declined in nine out of 12 of the routine vaccination measures compared to last year.
“This means immunity against deadly or life-changing diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and polio is dropping. These were diseases of the past – they should not be part of our future.”
So what are the vaccinations children should be having, when? And what does each vaccination prevent against? The NHS provides a handy timeline.
This is given as a single jab containing vaccines to protect against six separate diseases: diphtheria; tetanus; whooping cough (pertussis); polio; Haemophilus influenzae type b, known as Hib, a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children; and hepatitis B.
According to AXA PPP healthcare common side effects can include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site. Your child may also be irritable and tearful or run a fever. Most of the time, these side effects are mild and short-lived.
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections. It’s also known as the pneumonia vaccine.
According to the NHS the type of pneumococcal vaccine you’re given depends on your age and health. There are 2 types.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is used to vaccinate children under 2 years old as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. It’s known by the brand name Prevenar 13.
Babies receive 3 doses of pneumococcal vaccine at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year.
This is an oral vaccine against rotavirus infection, a common cause of diarrhoea and sickness, and is given as two doses for babies aged 8 and 12 weeks, alongside their other routine childhood vaccinations.
The vaccine is given as a liquid straight into your baby’s mouth. It contains a weakened strain of rotavirus, which helps babies build up immunity, so that the next time they come into contact with rotavirus they should not get it.
AXA PPP healthcare says common side effects may include: restlessness, irritability and mild diarrhoea.
The MenB vaccine is recommended for babies aged 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year as part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme.
The MenB vaccine will protect your baby against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which are responsible for more than 90% of meningococcal infections in young children.
Meningococcal infections can cause meningitis and sepsis (blood poisoning), which can lead to severe brain damage, amputations and, in some cases, death.
The MenB vaccine used is called Bexsero. It’s given as a single injection into your baby’s thigh.
Many babies have no side effects at all, but those that do may have a slight fever, or high temperature, this tends to be mild and short-lived.
6-in-1 vaccine, second dose
Rotavirus vaccine, second dose
6-in-1 vaccine, third dose
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, second dose
MenB vaccine second dose
This is given as a single jab containing vaccines against meningitis C (first dose) and Hib (fourth dose).
The NHS says the vaccine boosts the protection your baby has already gained from their first course of Hib vaccine, which they received in the 6-in-1 vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old, and begins their protection against meningitis C.
According to AXA PPP healthcare since the meningitis C vaccine was introduced in 1999, a 95% decrease was observed in cases of disease caused by meningitis C.
Side effects of the jab may include swelling redness and pain at the injection site, mild fever, vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in babies and toddlers), crying, irritability, drowsiness, disrupted sleep, low appetite (more common in babies and toddlers).
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine
According to AXA PPP healthcare this protects against measles, mumps and rubella (commonly known of as German measles) and is given as a single injection.
These are common and very infectious conditions that have potentially fatal complications such as meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and deafness.
The full course requires two doses. It’s administered as a single injection into the muscle of the thigh or upper arm. First dose is normally given to babies aged 12-13 months.
AXA explains that babies usually don’t need to be vaccinated for MMR before 6 months because antibodies are transferred and retained from the mother at birth. These maternal antibodies reduce in number with age and are almost gone by the time this vaccine is due.
The 2nd dose of the vaccine is usually administered before starting school between ages 3 and 5 years.
Common side effects include a very mild form of measles (includes a rash, fever, decreased appetite) which may occur for a week or so following the injection. Three to four weeks after vaccination, 1 in 50 children may contract a mild form of mumps, with swelling of the glands in the cheek, neck or under the jaw, which may last for a few days
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, third dose
MenB vaccine, third dose
2 to 9 years (including children in reception class and school years 1 to 5)
Children’s flu vaccine (annual)
The children’s flu vaccine is offered as a yearly nasal spray to young children to help protect them against flu.
Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children, with potentially serious complications, including bronchitis and pneumonia.
AXA says the side effects of the flu nasal spray vaccine can include a slightly runny nose for a short period, and less commonly: fever, headache, low appetite.
3 years and 4 months
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, second dose
4-in-1 pre-school booster
This is given as a single jab, usually in the upper arm, and vaccinates children against: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) and polio.
The NHS says that clinical tests have found that more than 99% of children who had been given the 4-in-1 pre-school booster were protected against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and polio.
Children are routinely vaccinated against these illnesses as babies through the 6-in-1 vaccine. The 4-in-1 pre-school booster vaccine increases their immunity even further.