Childhood Immunisations - Your Questions Answered
The following are real questions from Parents in South Devon. The answers are as advised by Tracy Fabiano, local Immunisation Co-ordinator, NHS Devon Public Health.
Why vaccinate so young?
It is because the immune system isn't yet fully developed that the baby is most at risk of infectious diseases. The role of the vaccine is to strengthen the immune system against disease.
What if my baby is ill on the day of the appointment?
If your baby has a minor illness, without a fever, such as a cold they should have their vaccination as normal.
Can combined vaccines overload my baby's immune system? Should I delay?
No. Delaying until your child appears more robust in weight and physical appearance can mean they are unprotected during their most vulnerable time.
Everyday life exposes your child to thousands of germs every day. The combined vaccines use less than 0.1% of the immune system and actually strengthen it to fight disease.
Why can't my baby fight the disease on their own?
Vaccination works because your baby's antibodies remember the disease and fight it. Only vaccination can do this. There is no other medical or homeopathic equivalent.
Can homeopathic treatment be used instead?
The British Homeopathic Association says that there is no evidence to show that homeopathic medicines can be used instead of vaccination.
What about single vaccines?
The NHS does not recommend use of single vaccine, and therefore cannot tell you about the ingredients, if the vaccine has been tested, the required amount of doses, possible side-effects or advise on a certified practitioner to administer the vaccines.
If you are considering opting for a single vaccine it is recommended you talk through your concerns about the combined vaccines with your practice nurse or health visitor. Combined vaccines are well tested, reduce the number of appointments required, reduce the anxiety for the child and protect earlier.
Do my children need all the boosters?
Protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio can fade over time. The pre-school booster will top up your child's protection, this is particularly important when entering a new school community.
It is important to have a second dose of MMR as some children do not respond to the first dose and remain at risk of natural infection.
You don't see the diseases these days - what is the risk?
The latest measles outbreak in Devon was in 2011. One case of measles can spread to eight children and eight children to sixty four, and so forth. Measles is not a mild disease; complications include chest infections, fits, swelling of the brain and brain damage.
What is the greatest - the risk of side effects or the risk of disease?
The disease poses a far greater risk to your child than the vaccine. As with all medicines, there are side-effects, however serious side-effects are uncommon and permanent side-effects rare.
What do vaccines contain?
The essential part of a vaccine is a substance called an "antigen". An antigen is a large molecule and different vaccines contain different antigens. Vaccines work by telling the body to make antibodies against a disease. Vaccines also contain preservatives, adjutants and additives. There is no evidence that any of these cause harm, the reason they are used is to ensure that the vaccine is as safe and effective as possible.
The Great Ormond Street website is recommended to parents.
Personalised vaccination planners are available at