Many women question whether they should receive vaccines during pregnancy. Doctors recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against flu and whooping cough to protect themselves and to share that protection with their baby. Scroll down for more information or download the full guide here.
Section 2: Common questions and vaccine schedule recommended by the NHS
- Can I have vaccines when I am pregnant?
- When and how many vaccines does my child need?
- Why are changes made to the immunisation schedule?
- Can receiving multiple vaccinations overload the immune system?
- Why do I have to vaccinate my child at specific times? Can I wait until they’re older?
- Is there a situation when a child shouldn’t be vaccinated?
- What is a booster jab and why does my child need one?
- Why do some children still get the disease even after they’ve been vaccinated?
Can I have vaccines when I am pregnant?
These vaccines are perfectly safe and are extremely effective at preventing serious illness from these infectious diseases. Inactivated vaccines do not contain any live version of the bacteria or virus they are protecting against. During pregnancy, a woman’s natural immune system is weakened. This may make it more difficult for them to fight infection and increase their risk of harm from common diseases, such as flu. Therefore, pregnant women are among a group that are especially vulnerable to flu complications, something which the vaccine can protect against. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a very serious infection and young babies are the most at risk. During pregnancy, vaccination against whooping cough will lead to the production of antibodies which will be passed on to the baby during the last three months of pregnancy through the placenta.14 Therefore, vaccines not only protect the mother during pregnancy, but also protect their unborn and newborn child. If a vaccine is made up of a live, but weakened, version of the virus, pregnant women will usually be advised to wait until after birth to receive these. It is important that you speak to your midwife, practice nurse or GP if you are concerned about vaccines during pregnancy.
When and how many vaccines does my child need?
The immunisation schedule is continually monitored to ensure that the timing and type of vaccination is as beneficial to your child as possible. Improvements to the schedule may involve changing the recommended age a vaccine is given at, the number of doses required, or introducing a new vaccine combination. Following extensive research, trials and analysis, new vaccines will also be added to the schedule to increase the number of diseases that your child can be protected from. The most important thing to remember is that any change to the immunisation schedule is there to help keep your child as safe as possible, by protecting them from more diseases and ensuring a vaccine is as effective as possible.
There is so much information out there about vaccines. Engaging with parents/carers on immunisations is a great way to help them make an informed decision about the best start to a healthy life for their child - Shannon Lacombe, BSI Public Engagement and Vaccine Champion
Can receiving multiple vaccinations overload the immune system?
No. Your child’s immune system fights off millions of germs every day. The amount of bacteria or virus in a vaccine is very small in comparison and will put no extra strain on your child’s immune system. Even if your child received a number of different vaccines at once, they would still only be using less than a thousandth of their immune system’s capacity.15
Why do I have to vaccinate my child at specific times? Can I wait until they’re older?
The immunisation schedule has been designed so that your child can be vaccinated as soon as possible, at a time when each vaccine will be the most effective. It is important to vaccinate your child at the age advised to make sure that they are protected from an early age. Babies and young children are the most vulnerable to disease and the longer you wait to vaccinate your child, the greater the possibility of them catching the disease and becoming ill. If you miss an appointment you can still get your child vaccinated after the recommended age. However, keep in mind that the longer you wait, the longer you leave your child unprotected and vulnerable to disease. Please speak to your health visitor, practice nurse or GP for further information about vaccinating your child outside of the recommended times.
Is there a situation when a child shouldn’t be vaccinated?
If a child is unwell with a fever, then vaccination will usually be postponed until they are better. Otherwise, it is very rare that a child is unable to be vaccinated. Only children with a weakened immune system, caused by a medical treatment such as chemotherapy, an allergy to the vaccine or its components, or certain medical conditions affecting the function of their immune systems are unable to receive all the vaccines recommended in the immunisation schedule. Please speak to your health visitor, practice nurse or GP if you are concerned about whether your child is able to receive all the vaccines on the immunisation schedule.
What is a booster jab and why does my child need one?
Booster vaccines do exactly what they say on the tin – they give your immune system a boost against the disease! For some vaccines a further round of exposure to the vaccine is required to increase immunity against the disease. Immunity against some diseases can fade over time and it is important to keep up to date with your child’s booster vaccines to ensure that they are as protected as possible.
Why do some children still get the disease even after they’ve been vaccinated?
Most vaccines produce immunity in 85% to 95% of children who receive them, making them the most effective medical intervention we have for preventing disease. However, no medicine can ever be 100% effective and the effectiveness of the vaccine will differ depending on how it is made and the disease it is protecting you from.16 Variations in individual immune systems mean that the protective capacity of the vaccine will vary between different people, and in a very small number of cases, immunity against the disease will not fully develop. However, vaccination is extremely effective for the majority of the population, and if a high enough proportion of people are immunised, those who have not developed immunity from the vaccine will be protected by herd immunity.17 Even if your child does catch the disease after they have been immunised, their symptoms are likely to be much milder in comparison to those in children who have not received the vaccine.16