Immunisation for premature babies
A premature baby is at high risk of infection. They need the same vaccinations at two months old as babies born at full term. Vaccinations reduce your baby’s risk of getting serious diseases. If you delay getting your baby immunised, this can increase the risk of vaccine side effects.
First vaccination for premature babies
If your baby is in hospital when they are two months old, their first vaccinations are still due. Your baby will get four vaccines on the same day:
- vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and hepatitis B
- vaccination against rotavirus
- vaccination to prevent meningococcal B disease (men B)
A doctor or nurse will explain what happens and answer any questions about immunisation. They inject each vaccine into the muscle of your baby’s thigh.
Reasons babies may not be able to receive some vaccines
Your baby shouldn't get vaccinated if they had:
- a severe allergic (anaphylactic) reaction to an earlier dose of the vaccine
- an anaphylactic reaction to antibiotics in vaccines (neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin)
Your baby might not be able to have some vaccines if their immune system is suppressed because they’re having treatment for an organ transplant or cancer.
Your doctor or practice nurse should ask the specialist treating your child about the vaccines.
Side effects of vaccines
Where the injection is given on your baby’s thigh, the side effects could be:
- some pain
Some babies might develop a mild fever. If they have a temperature, it’s important to keep your child cool by:
- giving them fluids regularly
- making sure they don’t overheat under too many layers of clothes or blankets
- giving them infant paracetamol liquid (ask your doctor about dosage)
Giving paracetamol to babies born prematurely
If your baby isn’t in hospital, it’s important to have infant paracetamol at home before they have their first meningitis B (MenB) vaccine. A baby can have a fever after meningitis B vaccination.
If your baby was born before 32 weeks’ gestation, your doctor should prescribe the right dose of paracetamol for your baby’s weight.
Childhood immunisation programme
Babies born prematurely follow the timetable for childhood immunisation. The Child Health system or your doctor’s surgery usually send out your invitation to make a vaccination appointment.
Recognising meningitis and blood poisoning
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), meningitis B and pneumococcal vaccines protect against the most common bacteria that cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia).