This guide explains how each vaccine offered in the UK works and why they’re safe and important! Please also see our Travel Advice page for information on vaccinations before travelling.
Click on the title of each vaccination below to find out more including, who has each vaccine, when you should be vaccinated, side effects, FAQs and safety information.
12 years old
You are usually sent an appointment letter when your child is due a routine vaccination. It could be at your GP practice or a local child health clinic.
Read more about childhood vaccinations here: www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations
If your child has missed a vaccination or you haven’t received an appointment letter, click the button below to speak to or arrange to see a GP.Access askmyGP
This protects against serious and potentially fatal infections caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis.
You can have this vaccination all year round and are entitled to it at the practice if you:
- Are aged 65 or over
- Have a long-term medical condition
You should think about getting the vaccine if you:
- Have a weakened immune system
- Are a smoker, heavy drinker
- Have had surgery or a severe illness
The flu vaccination is available every year on the NHS to help protect those at risk of flu and its complications.
You are entitled to a free flu jab on the NHS if you:
- Are 65 or over
- Are pregnant
- Have a long-term medical condition
- Live in a long-stay residential care home
- Are a front line health or social worker
You can have this at any time if you are aged 70 or 78 years old. Anyone previously eligible (born on or after 2nd September 1942) but missed out on their shingles vaccination remains eligible until their 80th birthday.
You should not have the shingles vaccination if you:
- Have a weakened immune system
- Are allergic in any way
- Have an untreated TB infection
“At-risk” group vaccinations
The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccine protects against tuberculosis, also known as TB. It affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body, such as the bones, joints and kidneys.
This vaccine is not given as part of the routine NHS vaccination schedule unless someone is thought to have an increased risk of coming into contact with TB.
Not recommended for:
- People with a history of TB
- Those with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
This is available to babies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks old and is also offered to those thought to be at increased risk of hepatitis B or its complications.
You could be at risk if you:
- Receive regular blood transfusions or blood products
- Have a chronic kidney or liver disease
- Travel to high-risk countries or adopt/foster from these countries
- Work in an environment where you could have contact with another persons blood or body fluids such as nurses, prison workers, doctors, dentists and laboratory staff
Whilst chickenpox is a common childhood infection and it’s usually mild with rare complications, the disease can be more severe in adults.
There are certain groups of people who are at greater risk of serious complications from chickenpox such as:
- Those with weakened immune systems through illness such as HIV or through treatments like chemotherapy
- Pregnant women – it could cause a range of health defects and serious diseases to unborn babies
Vaccinations during pregnancy
Some vaccines, such as the seasonal influenza vaccine and the whooping cough vaccine, are recommended during pregnancy to protect the health of you and your baby. An inactivated vaccine does not contain a live version of the virus it is protecting against. Some vaccines, such as the tetanus vaccine, are perfectly safe to have during pregnancy if necessary. It does depend on the type of vaccination. For example, the MMR and yellow fever vaccines have potential risks, and you need to discuss these with your midwife or doctor before deciding whether to have the vaccine.
Vaccines not usually advised in pregnancy (live vaccines)
If a vaccine uses a live version of the virus, such as the MMR vaccine, you’ll usually be advised to wait until after your baby is born before you get vaccinated. This is because there’s a risk that live vaccines could cause your unborn baby to become infected, but there’s no evidence that any live vaccine causes birth defects. Sometimes, a live vaccine may be used during pregnancy if the risk of infection is greater than the risk of the vaccination. Your midwife, GP or pharmacist can give you more advice about vaccinations during pregnancy.
Live vaccines include:
- BCG (Tuberculosis)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
- Oral polio (part of the 5-in-1 vaccine given to infants)
- Oral typhoid
- Yellow fever
Vaccines recommended in pregnancy
Your immune system is weakened to protect the pregnancy when you’re expecting. This can mean that you’re less able to fight off infections. As the baby grows, you may be unable to breathe as deeply, increasing the risk of infections such as pneumonia. These changes can raise the risk of influenza – pregnant women are more likely to get flu complications than women who are not and are more likely to be admitted to hospital. Having the flu vaccine means you’re less likely to get flu.
Young babies are most at risk of this serious infection. Most babies with whooping cough will be admitted to hospital. When having the vaccine during pregnancy, your body produces antibodies to protect against whooping cough. These antibodies pass to your baby giving them some protection until they’re able to have their whooping cough vaccination at 8 weeks old.
Travel vaccines in pregnancy
When you’re pregnant, it’s best to avoid visiting countries or areas where travel vaccinations are required (please see our Travel Advice page for more information). It may not always be possible to avoid areas that require vaccinations when you’re pregnant. If this is the case, talk to a midwife or GP, who can tell you about the risks and benefits of any vaccinations you might need. If there’s a high risk of infection in the area that you’re travelling to, it’s often safer to have a vaccine rather than travel unprotected as most diseases will be more harmful to your baby than a vaccine.
For example, yellow fever is a virus spread by mosquitoes. Most people who get severe yellow fever die from it. The yellow fever vaccine is a live vaccine, but it may be considered necessary to have the vaccination if you’re travelling to areas where yellow fever is common because the risks of yellow fever are so high.
Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria. This is a serious condition which, if severe, can be fatal for both a mother and her baby. Malaria mainly affects countries in Africa, South America, Central America, Asia and the Middle East. If you must travel to these areas, preventative treatment is available in the form of antimalarial medicine tablets to reduce the risk of getting malaria.