January Newsletter: Vaccinations for Children

A very happy new year to you and your family, from our team here at Childhealthy. Thank you for all the lovely messages sent to us over the Christmas and New Year period. It is such a lift for all our team to receive these messages and to see such beautiful family photos in cards.

One very specific thank you to the family who sent the most heart-warming video clip of their son ‘playing doctor’ at home. It was the most valuable gift to receive and great to know we might be inspiring the next generation of medics. Thank you.

We have had a very busy start to the year and the holidays now seem well behind us. We have welcomed many new families to join the growing number who regularly visit our clinics and who read this monthly update.

We continue to see a large number of children in all age groups with coughs and colds as winter seems to still be very much with us. December’s newsletter on winter health is still very relevant in case you missed it with lots of tips on looking after your child during the winter months.

This month we have received many questions relating to vaccines in babies and children and specifically on COVID-19 vaccines in children.

So, this month’s newsletter focuses on exploring some of the most relevant information and guidance relating to vaccines, which vaccines your child needs, and when alongside an update on COVID-19 vaccination in children.

Vaccinations for children – Which vaccines and when?

Most vaccine schedules for children begin from 8 weeks of age, although some vaccinations such as Hepatitis B and BCG might be given earlier.

Babies under 1 year, in the UK receive vaccines at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks with additional vaccines including Meningitis C, Pneumococcal, BCG, and flu vaccines, also all available during the first year.

Within their first year, babies can receive protection from Diphtheria, Hepatitis B, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B), Polio, Tetanus, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Meningitis B, Meningitis C, Pneumococcal and Influenza virus.

International schedules may vary in timing and the types of vaccines included, but most schedules cover the same illnesses.

Children aged 1-15 years, continue to receive new vaccines as well as booster doses, with most of these being completed by school age.

At 1 year of age, children are able to receive vaccines against Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR), as well as receiving booster doses for Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib), Meningitis B, Meningitis C, and Pneumococcal.

Chickenpox and Hepatitis vaccines are also available from 1 year of age. These are included in many international schedules including the US immunisation schedule but are not available through the UK immunisation schedule.

When your child reaches two years old, they will be offered an annual nasal flu vaccine to protect against the common strains of seasonal flu. A flu injection is also available from 6 months to 2 years of age.

After 3 years of age, (usually 3 years and 4 months) children receive boosters doses for Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) and Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio.

Between the ages of 12 and 13, your child will be offered 2 doses of the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine to protect girls and boys from this virus that is sexually transmitted and causes genital warts in boys and girls and cervical cancer in girls.

At the age of 14 years, your child receives a booster dose of Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio, and the Meningococcal ACWY vaccine (to prevent meningitis and septicaemia).

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available for over 12s in the UK and over 5s in the US, so more on this below.

You can find out more about each of these vaccinations on the NHS website and on our Vaccination page of the Childhealthy website.

COVID-19 vaccination and children

While the Omicron variant has caused a significant rise in cases of COVID-19 in all age groups, reassuringly there is no real change in illness severity or symptoms in children. Recent media reports of increased admissions in hospitals relate to children testing positive rather than children with severe illness.

So what is the latest relating to COVID-19 vaccination and children? In the UK the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advises:

  • Cough and fever are the main symptoms seen in children with COVID-19.
  • In the UK children aged 5 to 11 years in a clinical risk group (for example, those living with respiratory diseases, chronic heart disease, immunosuppression, and/or chronic neurological disease) or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed, should be offered two 10 micrograms doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. There should be 8 weeks between the two doses.
  • The booster vaccination should be offered to children aged between 12 and 17 years, no sooner than 3 months after completion of their first round of vaccinations.
  • The booster vaccination should also be made available to those children aged between 12 and 15 years, who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed.
  • Many countries internationally, including the US, are now offering vaccination against COVID-19 to all 5 to 12-year-olds.
  • The benefits and risks from COVID-19 vaccination in children and young people are finely balanced largely because the risks associated with SARS-CoV2 infection are very low. Those aged between 5 and 11 years are considered the least at risk of serious COVID-19.

If you have concerns and questions relating to the COVID-19 vaccine and children, please do get in touch, or visit the links below where you will find extensive guidance on the vaccine, its effectiveness and side effects.

For more information on vaccinations, please read our article on 'Why Vaccines Are Important For Children'.

Vaccines and children FAQs

Q: Can my child still get their regular vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: Routine vaccinations for babies, preschool children, teenagers and adults are continuing as normal. It is very important to keep up to date with vaccines in your child. COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time as other vaccines such as the flu vaccine. If you are concerned that your baby or child has missed vaccines, contact your GP or you can book a vaccine appointment with Childhealthy.

Q: Is it harmful to my baby to have multiple vaccines at once?

A: Having multiple vaccinations at the same time is safe. Vaccines can be spaced out and timings varied, but there are no concerns with having multiple vaccines in one visit. Some vaccine injections cover multiple illnesses with a single injection, meaning fewer injections are required overall.

Q: I’m due to schedule my baby’s vaccinations, but she was born prematurely so should I wait until he’s a little bit older?

A: 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. There is no need to delay unless advised by a doctor otherwise.

Q: What are the most common side effects after vaccines in babies?

A: Babies and children of all ages cope very well with vaccines. There are well-recognised side effects, but most of these are mild and resolve quickly. Fever is very common, especially with the Meningitis B vaccine, but usually settles within 24 hours. Redness, swelling and discomfort at the injection site, irritability, and sleepiness, are very common and also settle. Paracetamol to help with fever and discomfort is often recommended. Always follow the dosing instructions on the medication bottle. Sometimes small hard lumps develop at the injection site and can persist for weeks even months, but also settle down. Regular massage of the area can help settle these. Other side effects such as allergic reactions can occur but these are very rare.

Childhealthy updates

We are very excited to be welcoming our newest colleague, Dr. Kerry Robinson, to the team. Kerry will be joining us as a Consultant General Paediatrician, adding greater availability of appointments and flexibility of booking for families. Watch this space for more information on this exciting addition to our team, with details coming soon on the About Us page of our website.

Our next ‘Weaning infants’ masterclass with Paediatric Dietitian, Bianca Parau, is on February 2nd at 10.30 am and we look forward to launching new dates in the coming weeks.

Nutritional assessments with Bianca are also proving very popular, with individual online appointments available for parents who have any nutrition-related concerns about their baby or child.

We will also be starting up ‘at home’ first aid classes for parents who prefer hands-on practice in these vital lifesaving skills, in addition to continuing online classes. Keep an eye on our Classes for parents page for more information.

If you would like more information or to book one of our classes, please email info@childhealthy.co.uk.

As always, we hope this newsletter has proved useful and has helped give you peace of mind regarding the vaccines your child needs and what you can do to keep on top of their health amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

If there are any other topics or questions that you’d like to see answered in our advice articles, then do let us know at info@childhealthy.co.uk and we will do our best to include them. In the meantime, visit our Conditions and Advice pages for many other topics you might find useful, like Chickenpox In Babies and Why Vaccines Are Important For Children.

Please share this newsletter with fellow parents and follow and like us on Facebook and Instagram for tips and updates.

Your support and feedback are appreciated and prove valuable in helping us to improve these monthly updates so that we can continue to support you in keeping your child healthy.

In the meantime, stay active and healthy, and keep looking forward - Spring is coming!

Dr. Yiannis and the Childhealthy team.

Further Resources

NHS vaccinations and when to have them - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

JCVI statement on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people: 22 December 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Childhealthy advice - Childhealthy

You can find out more about the international vaccination schedule for different countries here. 

You can find out more about COVID-19 vaccines for children here.

@doctor.yiannis (Instagram)