Immunisation and Vaccination
Why immunisation and vaccination are important and when, where and how to get them. You can find more health information, including on Immunisation and Vaccination on the NHS website.
Vaccination is the term used to describe getting a vaccine. Vaccines can be given as an injection, drops to take by mouth, or a nasal spray. Vaccines contain a weakened or inactive form of the disease. Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. Read more on why vaccination is safe and important.
Immunisation is the process of getting a vaccine and then becoming immune to the particular diseases or viruses you were vaccinated for. Immunisation protects children and adults against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community. Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism, the immune response, to build resistance to specific infections.
Your doctor, practice nurse or school nurse will give a vaccine to start the process of immunisation.
Video | Vaccines - Are they safe for my child?
There a some very important reasons why vaccination is important. These include:
- Some infectious diseases can cause serious complications
- Vaccinations protect other people in your community – by helping to stop diseases spreading to people who cannot have vaccines
- Vaccinations can reduce or even get rid of some diseases – if enough people are vaccinated
The World Health Organization (WHO) says: "The 2 public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s health are clean water and vaccines."
Most vaccines are given to us as children to protect us early on and reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Some vaccines are given throughout our lives and some at particular times when we are most at risk such as the Flu Vaccine and Travel Vaccines
When to have them
The NHS vaccination schedule details what ages each vaccine is given and those given to people with underlying health conditions or who are pregnant. For a visual guide, take a look at Public Health England's A visual guide to vaccines.
How to get them
Usually, you'll be contacted by your GP surgery when you or your child is due for a routine vaccination. This could be by letter, text, phone call or email. If you know you or your child is due for a vaccination, speak to your GP surgery to book the appointment. You do not need to wait to hear from them. Read more on Booking your child's vaccination appointment.
If you don't have a GP yet, find out How to register with a doctor (GP).
Immunisations for children
Some immunisations for children include:
Annual Flu nasal spray
Flu can affect both children and adults; however, children can get quite unwell should they catch this. They can sometimes get a high fever, achy muscles, painful joints and sometimes breathing difficulties. At times it can also lead to severe complications and may need hospital admission.
The Flu vaccine is now available in a nasal form for children and available through the GP for children under 5 years of age and from school nurses in their primary school for children up to year 2.
Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination
Measles, Mumps and Rubella are common highly infectious viruses, which are airborne and can cause conditions with high temperatures and a nasty rash. They can lead to serious complications such as Meningitis, swelling of the brain (Encephalitis) and deafness.
Children can be protected by having MMR vaccine, which is given at their GP surgery as a single injection. MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against these three viruses in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses. The first jab is usually given within a month of their first birthday and a second jab before starting school, usually between three and five years of age. It's important to make sure your children are up-to-date with the MMR vaccination before starting the school.
Immunisations for Teenagers
Some immunisations for teenagers include:
Teenage Booster Vaccines
The Teenage Booster (known as the 3-in-1 or the Td/IPV vaccine) is given as a single injection to boost the protection against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio. This booster jab is given by school nurses at schools to all school children in year 9 or year 10. The Meningitis jab is also given at the same time.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine
In England, girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years will be routinely offered the first HPV vaccination when they're in school Year 8. The second dose is normally offered 6 to 12 months after the first (in school Year 8 or Year 9).
It helps protect against cancers caused by HPV, including:
- cervical cancer
- some mouth and throat (head and neck) cancers
- some cancers of the anal and genital areas
- It also helps protect against genital warts.
You can also receive this vaccine as an adult including men who have sex with men (MSM) and Transgender people. More information is available from Sexual Health Buckinghamshire.
If you are planning a holiday, speak to your GP practice or practice nurse to find out whether your existing UK vaccinations are up-to-date. If you need further vaccinations, some GP surgeries may provide free NHS vaccinations for travel. If they don't you can try a private travel vaccination clinic or pharmacy offering travel healthcare services.
A one-page information sheet aimed at parents about the flu vaccination (NHS England).
Easy-read information with information for people with learning disabilities, their family carers and paid supporters (NDTi).
Simple steps by the Royal College of General Practitioners that you can take to make it easier to access your GP.
Video | The flu jab for people with learning disabilities
An overview of the vaccinations a person will have at different ages of their life and when pregnant.
Things you could try that may help your child's vaccination appointment go smoothly.
Vaccinations you or your child may need if you're planning to travel outside the UK.
Things you need to know about vaccines include what they do and don't do.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Flu vaccine including why they are given and how long they take to work.
Find your nearest GP by town, city or postcode.