Childhood immunisation programme

Some infectious diseases can kill children or cause lasting damage to their health. Your child's immune system needs help to fight those diseases. Immunisation gives protection against some infectious diseases. Vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies that fight infection. Immunisation is also known as 'vaccination', 'jab' or 'injection'.

Why childhood immunisation is important

Immunisation prepares the body to fight serious infections that might happen in the future. Young babies are very vulnerable to infections, so they need to be protected as early as possible.

Your child needs several different vaccines to be fully protected, so it’s important to complete their childhood immunisation programme. 

What can happen when a child isn’t immunised

Due to the high number of children receiving vaccinations in Northern Ireland over the past couple of decades, many serious childhood infectious diseases have disappeared altogether, like diphtheria, polio or tetanus or been dramatically reduced, such as measles and whooping cough.

In some countries it is more difficult to receive vaccines and as a result more people die from infectious diseases every year.

Unless vaccine uptake remains high in Northern Ireland, many of these serious infectious diseases will return from parts of the world where they still occur. If this happens, then children living in Northern Ireland that are not vaccinated will be at risk of these infections, their complications and even death.

Diseases with vaccination available

There are vaccines to protect children against:

How vaccines are given

Most vaccines are given to your baby or child as an injection. They get each rotavirus vaccine by the mouth. Most children will get the flu vaccine by nose unless it is not safe too. 

When babies and children get the vaccination

The immunisation programme gives vaccines to babies and children at different ages. Routine immunisation for babies begins when they're two months old. Your child needs several vaccines to protect them from infections, so it’s important to complete their immunisation programme.

Age immunisation is given diseases protected against how vaccine is given
Two months old

diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B (6 in 1)

one injection
  pneumococcal disease one injection
  rotavirus orally
  meningococcal group B disease one injection
Three months old diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio,  haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B (6 in 1) one injection
  rotavirus orally
Four months old

diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B (6 in 1)

one injection
  pneumococcal disease one injection
  meningococcal group B disease one injection
12 to 13 months

haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and meningococcal group C

one injection
  meningococcal group B disease one injection
  measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) one injection
  pneumococcal disease one injection
Annually from two years old  flu nasal spray or injection
From three years and four months old diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio
 
one injection
  measles, mumps and rubella one injection
12 to 13 year old girls  human papillomavirus (HPV) two or three injections
14 to 18 years old diphtheria, tetanus and polio one injection
  meningitis (meningococcal groups A, C, W and Y) one injection

From September 2019 the HPV vaccine will be offered to 12 to 13 year old boys and girls

Some babies in high-risk groups get a BCG vaccine for protection against tuberculosis (TB) when they are born. Higher risk infants might also get extra vaccinations against hepatitis B.

Your doctor or health visitor will give you more information if your child needs protection.

Getting your child immunised

Before your child starts school, they usually get their vaccinations at your doctor's surgery or local health clinic. The Child Health system or the doctor’s surgery usually sends you the invitation to make a vaccination appointment.

Your child can get some vaccinations in school. The school will contact you before they give your child a vaccine.

If you have any questions, ask your health visitor, doctor, school nurse or a practice nurse in the doctor's surgery.

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