It’s so important for your baby to get their vaccinations during the early months of their life. The first set of jabs your baby will be offered are their 8-week vaccines on the NHS.
These vaccines are free and you just need to book in with your GP to have them.
To help give you a good idea of what to expect at your appointment, exactly which vaccinations your baby will receive and advice on the side effects, we spoke to Dr Alice Wood, in-house GP at Naytal, the online clinic for women, for her expert guidance.
What vaccines will my baby get at 8-weeks?
'Just before your baby turns 8 weeks you should receive a notice to book their first set of vaccinations. These vaccinations are the beginning of a number of vaccines your baby will be offered during their childhood and provide one of the best ways to protect your baby against dangerous and sometimes life-threatening infections.' Says Dr Alice.
What are these vaccines for and what’s in them?
This clever 6-in-1 vaccine protects against six serious childhood diseases in one jab. It’s injected into your baby’s thigh and will protect them against diphtheria, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b, polio, tetanus and whooping cough.
It’s a very safe vaccine as it doesn’t contain any live organisms. Your baby will need a booster of this vaccine at 12 weeks and 16 weeks.
Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that affects babies and young children which commonly causes vomiting, fever, diarrhoea and stomach ache.
This is given to babies as an oral vaccine straight into their mouth in liquid form. They’ll need a booster of this at 12 weeks.
This vaccine will protect your baby against meningococcal group B bacteria. This bacteria can lead to meningitis and sepsis in babies and young children so it’s very serious and a very important vaccine to get.
It’s given to baby at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year and is administered with an injection in the thigh.
Why is it important for my baby to have these vaccinations?
According to Dr Alice, before vaccinations were introduced, childhood infections caused thousands of child deaths each year.
'It is really important for your baby’s health that they have these vaccinations. They provide protection against some of the most serious childhood infections that can have life-changing or life-threatening outcomes in babies and young children. The vaccinations help your baby to create their own protection or immunity against these infections. It is also important for babies to have these injections because it helps protect other children, the more children that are immune from an infection, the less that infection can survive in the environment.'
What's in the vaccines?
'The most important ingredient in vaccinations is a small amount of the virus or bacteria that they protect against. This virus or bacteria has been killed or weakened during the process of making the vaccination so it does not cause that infection in your baby. It helps your baby’s body to recognise the virus or bacteria and create a defence response if it encounters it again. There are very small quantities of other ingredients used to help stabilise these vaccines but these are all safe in such small quantities. The Oxford Vaccine Group has useful information about these other ingredients.'
What are the side effects?
There are a few common side effects that you may notice in your baby after their vaccinations. These side effects are usually mild and settle on their own. The most common include:
Pain and redness at the site of the injection
A high temperature (fever)
Crying or irritability
The MenB vaccine is particularly likely to cause a fever so it is recommended that you give your baby a dose of liquid paracetamol after this set of vaccines.
'It is very rare for babies to have serious reactions to these vaccines, although serious allergic reactions can occur very occasionally. These allergic reactions usually happen within a few minutes of the injection, where staff trained to treat emergencies such as this will be available.' Says Dr Alice.
How can I prepare my baby for their jabs?
Taking your baby for their vaccinations can be a scary time so it helps to be as prepared as possible for this appointment. Dr Alice's tips to help you prepare include:
Bring your baby’s red book / personalised child health record book to the appointment so the nurse can update it.
Dress your baby in loose clothing that gives easy access to their thighs which is usually where the injections will be given.
Make sure you have a supply of liquid paracetamol ready for after the injections.
Make time for the appointment, you will want to have time and space to comfort your baby after the injections and feeling rushed can add to any sense of stress or anxiety.
If you have any specific concerns speak to your health visitor or GP in advance.
How should I take care of my baby after their vaccines?
'Immediately after the injections your baby will be crying and upset so cuddles and perhaps a feed can help ease their distress. Be ready to give your baby a dose of liquid paracetamol to reduce the risk of developing a fever.
'When you are prepared for the common side effects, it is less daunting if they occur so familiarise yourself with those mentioned above. Most importantly, remember that these injections are essential for your baby’s health and wellbeing so the long term protection is worth the short term distress they may cause.' Says Dr Alice.
What if I’ve missed the 8-week mark?
The first few months after a new baby arrives can seem to vanish in a blur and sometimes it is possible to forget to book baby’s first vaccinations or to remember after they have turned 8 weeks. But according to Dr Alice, it's better to get your baby vaccinated later rather than never.
'The timing of these vaccinations has been decided by experts based on when babies lose the protection given to them directly from their mother’s via the placenta (and in breast milk if breastfeeding), when childhood infections are most likely to occur and when babies’ bodies are ready to respond effectively to the vaccination. Therefore, 8 weeks is agreed as the best time for babies to have their first vaccinations. However, late is definitely better than never. If you miss the 8-week milestone, book these vaccinations as soon as you remember or discuss any concerns with your health visitor or GP.'