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When are vaccinations given?

Most vaccinations are given during childhood. Some are given more than once to make sure the protection continues. This 'top-up' is called a booster.

The recommended timetable for childhood vaccinations is:

At two months old:

  • Diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (DTaP/IPV/Hib) - one injection
  • Pneumococcal infection - pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) - one injection

At three months old:

  • Diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (DTaP/IPV/Hib) - one injection
  • Meningitis C (meningococcal group C) (MenC) - one injection

At four months old:

  • Diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (DTaP/IPV/Hib) - one injection
  • Meningitis C (meningococcal group C) (MenC) - one injection
  • Pneumococcal infection - pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) - one injection

At around 12 months old:

  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningitis C (Hib/MenC) - booster dose in one injection

At around 13 months old:

  • Measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) (MMR) - one injection
  • Pneumococcal infection - pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) - one injection

Three years four months to five years old (pre-school):

  • Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio (dTaP/IPV or DTaP/IPV) - one injection
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) (MMR) - one injection

13 to 18 years old:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and polio (Td/IPV) - one injection

Vaccination appointment

Your GP's surgery, local health centre, or baby clinic will send you an appointment when your baby's vaccination is due. It is important that your baby has their vaccinations as near to two, three and four months of age as possible, to keep the risk of them catching these diseases as low as possible. Premature babies should also be vaccinated from two months after birth, regardless of how premature they were.

Health record book

Your child's health record book forms the only complete record of their childhood vaccinations.

Vaccinations given at a health clinic or school are not necessarily added to the child's notes held by their GP - therefore it is very important to keep the health record book in a safe place. Details of childhood illnesses and vaccinations are often needed later in life. Without them, booster vaccinations may be required if the level of immunity is unknown.

Gap between vaccinations

It is recommended that there is at least a month's gap between each vaccination to allow their body to build up an adequate immune response. If the gap between vaccinations is less than a month, then an adequate immune response cannot be guaranteed and the vaccination may have to be redone.

If the gap between vaccinations is longer than a month, you should just continue the course where you left off, although it is advised that your baby has vaccinations at regular monthly intervals if possible. If you miss an appointment, make sure you contact your doctor's surgery as soon as possible to rearrange vaccinations.

Changes to the vaccination schedule

The child vaccination schedule was changed in September 2006 to include a vaccine to protect against pneumococcal infection - the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV).

As part of the changes, children under two who have missed the new scheduled vaccinations will be offered a single dose of PCV as part of a catch-up programme. Children over two years of age will not be part of the catch-up programme because the risk for children who are over two becoming ill with pneumococcal infection is considerably less than for those under two years of age.

A vaccination catch-up programme for haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) started on 10 September 2007 and will run until 3 March 2009. The programme provides a booster vaccination for young children who have not previously received one, so that they are protected in line with older and younger children.

Parents should contact their GP's surgery, or NHS Direct, on 0845 4647, if they have any questions, or concerns, regarding the child vaccination schedule.

Other vaccinations

Other vaccinations are given in some situations:

  • Tetanus - if all childhood vaccinations are up-to-date, a tetanus booster is only needed for people who are at risk of getting tetanus following injury.
  • Polio - boosters are advised every 10 years for healthcare workers who may come into contact with the disease.
  • Flu vaccine and/or pneumococcal vaccine is offered to those over 65 years of age, and to people at risk from flu, or invasive pneumococcal infection.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is offered to people who may come into contact with the disease, such as healthcare workers.
  • BCG (against tuberculosis, or TB). A new targeted vaccination programme was introduced in September 2005. Only those at high risk of TB (including babies and older people) will now be vaccinated. This replaces the previous system where all children were vaccinated at school at the age of 14 (approximately).

Vaccinations are also available to people who are travelling to areas where there may be serious diseases such as typhoid, or yellow fever. See your GP well before your trip to get advice about which vaccines you need.

Further information: 

Last reviewed: 30/04/2008

Next review due: 29/04/2010