The lowdown on child immunization

Babies’ injections – there’s a lot to take in! Here we guide you through when they have each jab & how to cope along the way


The importance of immunizations for babies

Just when you think you’ve nailed the feeding, nappies and semi-nocturnal existence, here come the jabs! “Vaccines are crucial in protecting your child for life against disease and infection,” says Dr Claudia Pasties, GP at Babylon Health*. “You may feel nervous, but they’re rigorously tested and have been used safely and successfully for years.”

But there are still those who choose not to immunize, with the US recently experiencing its biggest measles outbreak in decades as parents shunned the MMR vaccination. Twenty years ago, the UK also saw MMR vaccination rates drop after a doctor wrongly linked the vaccine to autism in children. His findings have since been discredited and a recent study of 650,000 children found no link at all. The take-out? Just do it!

Your child immunization timetable

So, what age do babies have their injections? “All newborns should be vaccinated from eight weeks after their birth date,” says Dr Claudia. “Vaccinations are usually given as an injection in the thigh, except the rotavirus vaccine which is a liquid (most babies swallow it happily – it’s sweet) and the flu vaccine which is a nasal spray."

“If jabs are due and your baby has a minor illness (cold or slight cough), you can usually still go ahead. But if they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, you should postpone,” says health visitor Angela Davy. If unsure, speak to the GP or practice nurse. “If a vaccine is delayed, the next ones need to be delayed too to allow for the recommended time between jabs,” adds Claudia.

8 weeks old (3 jabs and an oral liquid)

  • 6 in 1 – a single jab that protects against: diphtheria; tetanus; whooping cough; polio; Hemophilus influenzae type b (Hib is a bacterial infection that can cause pneumonia or meningitis) and hepatitis B.

  • Pneumococcal vaccination – protects against pneumococcal infections that can lead to pneumonia, septicemia and meningitis.

  • MenB vaccination – protects against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria which can lead to meningitis and sepsis.

  • Rotavirus vaccination (oral liquid) – protects against rotavirus, a common cause of severe sickness and diarrhea in babies.

12 weeks old (1 jab and an oral liquid)

  • 6 in 1 – second dose

  • Rotavirus vaccination (oral liquid) – second dose

16 weeks (3 jabs)

  • 6 in 1 – third dose

  • Pneumococcal vaccination – second dose

  • MenB vaccination – second dose

1 year old (four jabs)

  • Hib/Men C vaccination – to protect against meningitis C (first dose) and Hib (fourth dose)

  • MMR vaccination – to protect against measles, mumps and rubella

  • Pneumococcal vaccination – third dose

  • MenB vaccination – third dose

2 years old (1 nasal spray)

  • Flu vaccine – given every year from age 2 to 9 to protect against flu

3 years old (1 nasal spray)

  • Flu vaccine

3 years and 4 months – (2 jabs)

  • MMR vaccination – second dose

  • 4-in-1 pre-school booster – to protect against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio

How to cope with babies’ injections

Don’t show your stress

“Babies are brilliant at turning you into an anxious parent!” says Angela. “They can see it in your face, they can hear it in your voice, so try to appear relaxed. Any pain your baby feels is so momentary and quickly forgotten.”

Buddy up

Angela’s advice? There’s no shame in asking for company. “If you’re feeling really nervous, take a partner, grandparent or friend in to help you relax,” she says.

Give comfort and cuddles

You’ll be asked to cuddle your baby and hold their thigh still – a gentle hold, not a white-knuckle grip! A dummy or toy may help soothe them but even if they do scream out, any distress usually disappears quickly.

“I breastfed my unsettled daughter through her first vaccines, so if you feel comfortable doing so, go ahead,” says Claudia (a recent study found breastfeeding during a jab lessens pain for babies)

Play it out

“Demonstrating an injection on a teddy helps toddlers understand what will happen,” says Angela. “There are also books if you want to prepare your child through a story.”

Don’t surprise them

For older children, never spring jabs on them – make sure they know beforehand. “I would tell my children that morning, so they weren’t worrying the night before,” says Angela.

Dealing with side effects

‘Some children may experience no side effects at all after vaccinations - others are grizzly, get a slight fever or a rash,’ says Claudia. ‘If you’re worried your child is unwell, call and speak to your GP or nurse. Babies aged 0-3 months with a temperature of 38 degrees or over should see a doctor, and babies aged 3-6 months with a temperature of 39 degrees or over too (or if you think they have a fever),’ says Claudia.

*Babylon Health is a digital health company that offers a range of different health services, including an AI chatbot and digital GP consultations