Vaccinations give people immunity against dangerous diseases like whooping cough, measles and tuberculosis. Before vaccination, many people (especially children) who caught these diseases died or suffered permanent disability. Now almost nobody dies from serious diseases. This is because enough people have been vaccinated to stop the disease from spreading.
Vaccination is one of the greatest breakthroughs in medicine. No other medical intervention has done more to save lives and improve life - especially for children.
Vaccinations are quick and safe. There is a standard schedule of injections everyone takes, but some children may need more, for example if you have certain medical conditions that make it more dangerous for you to get certain illnesses.
If someone isn't vaccinated, they are at risk of catching serious illnesses and passing them on to others. If a group of people are not vaccinated, then there is a risk that the disease will become established, and cause serious damage. If you are not sure if you have had your vaccinations (for example, if you have come to the country recently, or if you think that you may have missed your vaccinations for another reason), then you can ask about being vaccinated - at any age. Talk to your GP, practice nurse, or school health nurse.
There's a recommended timetable for routine childhood vaccinations. This timetable has been timed to give all children and young people the best chance of developing protection against preventable diseases safely and effectively.
For more information on vaccination visit: NHS Choices Vaccination Schedule page
Vaccinations after 12 years of age:
All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. This protects against a virus which can cause cervical cancer in adult women. Find out more about it at NHS Choices here or watch the video on it below.
Between the ages of 13 to 18 you will be offered the 3 in 1 booster. This is a single injection which protects against three dangerous diseases:
- Polio, an incurable disease that can cause paralysis
- Diptheria, a serious and potentially fatal disease which obstructs breathing and damages the heart and nerves
- Tetanus, a serious and potentially fatal disease which causes painful muscle spasms which disrupt swallowing and breathing and damage your heart
To find out more about this vaccination and the diseases it helps prevent go to NHS choices page on it here.
Teenagers, sixth formers and 'fresher' students going to university for the first time are also offered a vaccination to prevent meningitis disease and septicaemia.
- Meningitis is a serious and potentially fatal disease which can cause limb loss, brain damage, blindness and other serious long-term health conditions.
To find out more about it visit the Men ACWY NHS Choices page.
Are vaccines safe?
All medicines have side effects. But because vaccines are used routinely, they are very safe. The side effect from a vaccine is usually a mild feeling of unwellness and sometimes a sore spot on the vaccination site.
All medicines work better on some people than on others, including immunisations. Sometimes (very rarely) people who are immunised may still get the disease. But it will be milder, because the immunisation has taught your body to resist the disease.
The diseases that immunisations protect against used to kill or permanently disable millions of people, and cause blindness, limb loss, cancer, paralysis and death. Not everyone who is infected suffers the worst effects and people may recover completely, though it can take a very long time. But all these diseases are very infectious, so those lucky people almost always infect other people. These people may die or be permanently disabled.
Being vaccinated is much safer than not being vaccinated - for everybody.
Crucial: Most parents do make sure their children are vaccinated, to protect their health. But sometimes vaccinations may be missed. If you are worried that you have missed vaccinations, or that you have not been vaccinated, then you can talk to your school health nurse.
What about consent?
When children are very little, parents and carers give consent for their child to be vaccinated by bringing their child to be immunised. When immunisation happens at school, your parent or carer may need to fill in a form.
When you are older, you may also be able to give consent yourself, if the medical professional believes you understand enough about vaccination to make the decision.
If you are over the age of 16, you can make your own medical decisions. You can choose to have vaccinations even if your parent does not give consent.
If you are going abroad you may need more vaccinations. In some countries there are very serious infections such as yellow fever, rabies, typhoid and hepatitis A. Where these diseases are present you should take e vaccinations available that can protect you against them.
Take action: Find out what immunisations you will need to keep safe when you travel from the travel vaccines NHS choices pages.
When you are pregnant you and your unborn baby can be put at risk by common viral infections such as Flu and Chicken Pox. To find out what vaccinations you should have while pregnant go to the NHS Choices Vaccination Page and look at the Special Groups section.