Immunisation is vital for your child’s health. It is a safe and effective way of protecting your child against disease by producing resistance to specific diseases through the use of micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses that are have been modified or killed.
Babies are born with some natural protection which they get from their mothers, as well as through breastfeeding. As their own immune system starts to develop this will gradually wear off, and getting them immunised will give them extra protection against fatal diseases. A few days after birth, your baby should get their first vaccine. When they reach two months old, five visits to your GP are needed to complete the course of vaccines your baby needs.
When does my baby get immunised?
Young babies are most vulnerable to these diseases and need to be protected as soon as possible which is why vaccines are given at such a young age. Babies younger than six months are at the highest risk for serious complications of whooping cough. These diseases can kill a child or adult, but it easy to forget how serious they are largely thanks to vaccinations. In Ireland, for example, there are still cases of measles in those who aren’t vaccinated against them. These diseases can cause pneumonia, choking, brain damage, heart problems, and can be fatal.
How do vaccinations work?
Vaccinations help your child’s immune system work and allow your child to develop protection against future infections, without them having to get sick first. The risks posed by these diseases are far greater than the small risk from immunisation.
What will happen if I don’t get my child vaccinated?
One of two things can happen if you don’t immunise your child. If your child is never exposed to any of these diseases in their lifetime, there will be no impact from not being immunised. If your child is exposed at any time as an adult or child, there is a good chance they will get the disease. This could lead to mild illness, indoor confinement for a few days, hospital stay or could be fatal. Your child could also end up spreading the disease to other children and adults who are not protected. Talk to your GP, public health nurse, or practice nurse if you have any questions or queries. Leaflets are also available from your local GP surgery or health centre.
Your child should get vaccinated against the following diseases:
- Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, influenza type b, (Hib), and Hepatitis B (combined as a six in one vaccine)
- Meningococcal C (men C) disease
- Pneumococcal disease
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (combined in the single MMR vaccine)
Some parents worry about overloading a child’s immune system with too many vaccines, and that they may not work properly if they do this, but there is no cause for worry as your child’s immune system can easily cope. Vaccines are just as safe and effective when given together as when given separately.
For more information visit the immunisation website here.