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Childhood immunisations

Two babies looking at a book

Immunisation is one of the best means of protecting your child against many contagious diseases.

Before vaccinations were available these diseases caused serious illnesses and sometimes death.

Babies are usually born with natural immunity to certain infections. Disease-fighting antibodies pass through the placenta to the unborn child. After birth, the breast-fed baby gets the continued benefits of additional antibodies in breast milk.

But in both cases, the immunity is only temporary. Without vaccination babies and children will continue to be at risk from these life threatening diseases.

The childhood immunisation programme routinely provides children with protection from ten preventable diseases:

  • polio
  • diphtheria
  • tetanus
  • pertussis
  • hib
  • meningitis C
  • pneumococcus
  • measles
  • mumps
  • rubella
  • rotavirus

Often a series of vaccines is needed to ensure that the child is fully protected. Without the full course of vaccinations, children will not have full protection.

Some children who have an impaired immune system - through illness or treatment - may also need protection against other diseases, such as influenza and hepatitis B.

Information leaflets are available on all the vaccinations recommended under the childhood immunisation programme. Go to the NHS Direct website (external link) for further details.

Why immunise children against these diseases?

Many of these diseases continue to kill. For example, around 1 million children die worldwide from measles each year, mostly in developing countries. Thanks to vaccines, we don't see the diseases as often as we used to. But they can still be as deadly.

We know that these diseases will come back again if immunisation up-take rates are not sufficiently high. Even in developed countries with good standards of hygiene and healthcare, these diseases would reach epidemic proportions if they stopped immunising.