If your baby was born prematurely, it is understandable that you may feel he is more fragile and not ready for the first jabs. Although premature babies are more vulnerable to infections they do have a working immune system and are able to mount a response to vaccinations. Premature babies will be most at risk for contracting illnesses, so it is in your baby’s interest to follow the immunisation schedule and protect them from the diseases that they might be most vulnerable to.
It is recommended to vaccinate your baby in line with his chronological age, i.e. age since the day he was actually born not expected to be born. The vaccination schedule is designed to give your baby the best protection from the specified diseases, and the recommendations are based on a child’s immune response at that age. Some vaccinations such as BCG and hepatitis B can be given from birth, but most are given at eight, twelve and sixteen weeks on the UK schedule, followed by further vaccines and boosters doses at a year of age and pre-school boosters after the age of three. Teenagers shouldn’t feel too left out as they will also have vaccines given at 13 years (girls only) and 14 years old.
If your baby is still in hospital at the time vaccinations are due these will be given in hospital so he won’t miss out. Always bring your red book to appointments so that vaccines can be recorded, especially if you are not having vaccines given in the same place on every occasion.
The UK immunisation schedule is very comprehensive, protecting your child from at least 15 different illnesses. The majority of childhood vaccinations are available through the NHS, although some such as the BCG, the vaccine against tuberculosis, hepatitis B and chicken pox vaccines are only available to certain groups of children. Hepatitis B will be given routinely to all babies at eight, twelve and sixteen weeks from summer of 2017. The good news is that this will not require an extra injection as it will be given as part of a 6 in 1 vaccine.
The additional vaccines are available privately, if your child is not eligible through the NHS, and your GP or paediatrician can advise you on how to access these. The Meningitis B vaccine has recently been made widely available for babies at eight and sixteen weeks and a year of age. This protects against the type B group of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia. This particular vaccine commonly causes fever as a side effect and so infant paracetamol is recommended to help with this and you will be advised about this at the time the vaccine is due.
There are not many reasons or pre-existing illness that affect the timing of vaccines, but it is important to discuss any previous allergic reactions or current symptoms your baby might have with your GP prior to the vaccines being administered.