Here’s a checklist of the vaccines that are routinely offered to everyone in the UK for free on the NHS, and the ages at which they should ideally be given.
If you’re not sure whether you or your child has had all your routine vaccinations, ask one of the practice nurses to find out for you. It may be possible to “catch up” later in life.
Try to make sure you or your child have vaccinations delivered on time to ensure protection. If you’re going to be away from the GP surgery when a vaccination is due, talk to the practice nurse. It may be possible to arrange for vaccination at a different location.
5-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine – this single jab contains vaccines to protect against five separate diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio and Haemophilus influenzae type b (known as Hib – a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children)
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine – The pneumococcal vaccine (or ‘pneumo jab’ or pneumonia vaccine as it’s also known) protects against pneumococcal infections. Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a kind of blood poisoning) and meningitis.
Rotavirus vaccine – An oral vaccine against rotavirus infection, a common cause of diarrhoea and sickness, is given as two doses for babies aged two and three months, alongside their other routine childhood vaccinations.
The vaccine is given as a liquid from a dropper straight into the baby’s mouth for them to swallow.
Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that typically strikes babies and young children, causing an unpleasant bout of diarrhoea, sometimes with vomiting, tummy ache and fever. Most children recover at home within a few days, but nearly one in five will need to see their doctor, and one in 10 of these end up in hospital as a result of complications such as extreme dehydration. A very small number of children die from rotavirus infection each year.
Men B vaccine Offered to babies aged 2 months, followed by a second dose at 4 months, and a booster at 12 months.
The Men B vaccine will protect your baby against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which can cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning), which are serious and potentially fatal illnesses.
Meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal group B bacteria can affect people of any age, but is most common in babies and young children.
This programme makes England the first country in the world to offer a national and publicly funded Men B vaccination programme.
5-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine, second dose
Men C vaccine – The Men C vaccine protects against infection by meningococcal group C bacteria, which can cause two very serious illnesses, meningitis and septicaemia.
Meningococcal disease can affect all age groups, but the rates of the disease are highest in children under five years of age, with the peak in babies under one year of age. There’s a second peak in cases in young people aged between 15 and 19. The disease tends to strike in winter.
Babies are routinely offered the Men C vaccine as part of the NHS Childhood vaccination programme at 3 months of age.
A second dose of Men C is offered at 12 months in a combined vaccine with Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
Rotavirus vaccine, second dose
5-in-1 (DTaP/IPV/Hib) vaccine, third dose
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, second dose
Men B vaccine second dose
Hib/Men C booster, given as a single jab containing meningitis C (second dose) and Hib (fourth dose)
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, given as a single jab – MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against three separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires two doses.
Measles, mumps and rubella are common, highly infectious conditions that can have serious, potentially fatal, complications, including meningitis, swelling of the brain (encephalitis), and deafness.
They can also lead to complications in pregnancy that affect the unborn baby and can lead to miscarriage.
Since the MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988, it’s rare for children in the UK to develop these serious conditions. However, outbreaks happen and cases of measles in particular have been rising in recent years, so it’s important to make sure your children and yourself are up-to-date with MMR vaccination.
Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, third dose
Men B vaccine third dose
2, 3 and 4 years plus school years one and two
Children’s flu vaccine (annual) – In the autumn/winter of 2015/16 the annual nasal spray flu vaccine will be available for children aged two, three and four years old plus children in school years one and two as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The vaccine will be offered routinely to all children aged two, three and four on August 31 2015. That is, children with a date of birth on or after September 1 2010 and on or before August 31 2013. In addition, children in school years one and two will be offered flu vaccination. In some parts of the country all primary school-aged children and secondary school-aged children in years seven and eight will also be offered the vaccine as part of a pilot programme. For most children, flu vaccination will be offered via a school-based programme, although in some areas it may be through alternative schemes such as pharmacies and general practice. Over time, as the programme rolls out, potentially all children between the ages of two and 16 will be offered vaccination against flu each year with the nasal spray.
The flu vaccine for children is given as a single dose of nasal spray squirted up each nostril. Not only is it needle-free (a big advantage for children), the nasal spray works even better than the injected flu vaccine with fewer side effects. It’s quick and painless and will mean your child is less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu virus. The nasal spray flu vaccine is also for children aged two to 18 who are “at risk” from flu, such as children with long-term health conditions. Some of these children will be offered two doses of the vaccine.
From 3 years and 4 months (up to starting school)
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, second dose
4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV) pre-school booster, given as a single jab containing vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) and polio – Also known as the DTaP/IPV (or dTaP/IPV) vaccine or simply the ‘pre-school booster’, the 4-in-1 pre-school booster vaccine is given to three-year-old children to boost their protection against:
- whooping cough
Children are routinely vaccinated against these illnesses as babies. This booster increases their immunity even further.
12-13 years (girls only)
HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer – two injections given between six months and two years apart
All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer. It’s usually given to girls in year eight at schools in England.
According to Cancer Research UK, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35. In the UK, 2,900 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, that’s around eight women every day.
Around 970 women died from cervical cancer in 2011 in the UK. It’s estimated that about 400 lives could be saved every year in the UK as a result of vaccinating girls before they are infected with HPV.
The HPV vaccine is delivered largely through secondary schools, and consists of two injections into the upper arm spaced at least six, and not more than 24 months apart (girls who began vaccination before September 2014 receive three injections). Research has indicated that the HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer for at least 20 years.
Different types of HPV are classed as either high risk or low risk, depending on the conditions they can cause. For instance, some types of HPV can cause warts or verrucas. Other types are associated with cervical cancer.
In 99% of cases, cervical cancer occurs as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV. Often, infection with the HPV causes no symptoms.
3-in-1 (Td/IPV) teenage booster, given as a single jab and contains vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and polio
The teenage booster, also known as the 3-in-1 or the Td/IPV vaccine, is given as a single injection into the upper arm to boost your child’s protection against three separate diseases: tetanus, diphtheria and polio.
The 3-in-1 teenage booster, is available routinely on the NHS for all young people aged 13 to 18.
It is generally given at secondary school at the same time as the Men ACWY vaccine. As a parent, you will be sent a letter from your child’s school a week or so before the vaccinations are planned to ask for your or your child’s consent.
Men ACWY vaccine Teenagers and university students are to be offered a vaccination to prevent meningitis W disease.
From August 2015, all 17- and 18-year-olds in school year 13 and first-time university students up to the age of 25 will be offered the Men ACWY vaccine as part of the NHS vaccination programme. The Men ACWY vaccine protects against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y diseases.
GP practices will automatically send letters inviting teenagers in school year 13 to have the Men ACWY vaccine.
There will also be a catch-up vaccination programme for current school year 10 students through schools from January 2016. The Men ACWY vaccine will also be added to the routine adolescent schools programme (school year 9 or 10) from autumn 2015, alongside the 3-in-1 teenage booster, and as a direct replacement for the Men C vaccination.
Cases of meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by Men W bacteria are rising, due to a particularly deadly strain. Older teenagers and university students are at high risk of infection because they tend to live in close contact in shared accommodation, such as university halls of residence. Men ACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm.
19-25 years (first-time students only)
Men ACWY vaccine – see above
BCG is no longer given to school-age children unless they are in an ‘at risk’ group or live in an ‘at risk’ area.
Tetanus If a full course of Tetanus (three injections) and two further boosters have been given, immunity is lifelong and further boosters are unnecessary, except after a serious accident.
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to early November, but don’t worry if you’ve missed it, you can have the vaccine later in winter if there are stocks left.
The flu jab for 2016/17 Each year, the viruses that are most likely to cause flu are identified in advance and vaccines are made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has recommended (25/02/16) that the 2016/17 flu vaccine will contain the following:
- an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
- a B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
It is recommended that quadrivalent vaccines containing two influenza viruses contain the above three viruses and a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus
Annual influenza (Flu) injections are available free under the NHS for the following categories of people:
Those over 65 years of age or those who fall within any of the following ‘at risk’ categories:
Chronic chest disease, (Patients with just asthma will no longer be offered the flu vaccine as The Department of Health does not consider this group of patients to be at risk unless they are using inhaled steroids on a regular basis or have been admitted to hospital due to an exacerbation of their asthma in the preceding 12 months. Please ask our nurses if you qualify).
Chronic heart disease, including angina
Chronic liver or kidney disease
Other chronic diseases on the advice of your doctor
Children and adults with weakened immune systems
Those living in residential institutions
Pneumococcal injections are available free under the NHS to patients over 65 years of age and to patients ‘at risk’ (see previous section). Most people will only need one pneumonia vaccine as it gives lifelong protection. However, patients who have had their spleen removed or those with some auto-immune diseases will need a second vaccination. Please check with the nurse if you need clarification.
70 years (and 78 and 79 year-olds as a catch-up)
A vaccine to prevent shingles, a common, painful skin disease is available on the NHS to certain people in their 70’s.
The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection for people aged 70, 78 or 79. Unlike the flu jab, you’ll only need to have the vaccination once and you can have it at any time of the year. The shingles vaccine is expected to reduce your risk of getting shingles. If you are unlucky enough to go on to have the disease, your symptoms may be milder and the illness shorter. Shingles can be very painful and uncomfortable. Some people are left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed. And shingles is fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70’s who develop it.
It’s fine to have the shingles vaccine if you’ve already had shingles. The shingles vaccine works very well in people who have had shingles before and it will boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.
Between September 2014 and September 2015, the shingles vaccine is offered routinely as part of the NHS vaccination programme for people aged 70, 78 or 79. You become eligible for the vaccine on the first day of September 2014 after you’ve turned 70, 78 or 79 and remains so until the last day of August the following year.
You can have the shingles vaccination at any time of year, though many people will find it convenient to have the vaccine at the same time as their annual flu vaccination. The shingles vaccine is given an injection into the upper arm.