Vaccine protection against serious illness

We’re fortunate that we rarely see conditions like measles, mumps and rubella in the United Kingdom.

It’s tempting to feel they’ve gone away. But the truth is these are dangerous, highly infectious diseases. For example, measles can infect 9 out of 10 people exposed to it, and can then go on to produce serious complications.

You rarely hear about these diseases because most people have had their vaccinations.

Vaccinations are safe and highly effective at stopping the spread, and protecting us and our children from the risks.

Getting yourself and your family vaccinated keeps you, and everyone else, safe.

In addition to childhood immunisations, we recommend children have the annual flu nasal spray.  Flu can be life-threatening for babies and toddlers. The annual nasal spray offers protection against the main strains of flu circulating in the community that year, so it is important to have the vaccine each winter to provide our children with a full range of antibodies against flu as they grow up. 

Find out more about the national annual flu programme for children

A man lifts his young child in the air as they both smile

It’s important that vaccines are given on time for the best protection, but if you or your child has missed a vaccine, contact your GP to catch up.

You can see the full schedule for children and adults in the UK at, where you can also read what each of the vaccines is for, and what illnesses they protect us against, from meningitis to cancer.

How to help your child if they’re anxious

Going for a vaccination appointment isn’t the most enjoyable thing for you and your little one, but it is important. The nurse or doctor will give you the space you need to feel comfortable, and provide some simple tips to help it go as quickly and smoothly as possible;

  • Dress your baby or child in clothes that are easy to remove. For babies, remember this includes the thigh. Toddlers and older children have their injection in the arm, so choose loose or short sleeves.
  • Let your child know what’s going to happen in simple language – for example “you may feel a sharp scratch that will go away very fast”
  • Your nurse will help you hold your child safely, usually on your knee. If you’re worried about seeing the injection yourself, just tell the nurse and they will find another member of staff to help.
  • If you send someone else with your child because you don’t want to go, make sure you tell the clinic or practice, as they will need the person to bring extra identification.
  • Don’t rush to the appointment – allow yourselves some time when you get there, so you aren’t stressed or anxious.
  • Ask any questions you have. We want you to be confident about having a vaccination.
  • It’s OK if your baby or child cries for a little while after a vaccination, and they will settle quickly with a cuddle.

More about vaccines

Vaccines teach your immune system how to create the antibodies that protect you from diseases.

It’s much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the disease, and once your immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can often protect you for many years.

If enough people are vaccinated, it’s harder for a disease to spread in a population. That protects all of us, but particularly those who can’t have a vaccine, for example because they have a weak immune system.

All vaccines are thoroughly tested to make sure they will not harm you or your child. Once approved, it continues to monitored for rare side effects, in the UK through the highly effective Yellow Card scheme.

Vaccines prevent more than 3 million deaths worldwide every year, and countless more serious preventable infections.

Since vaccines were introduced in the UK, diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus that used to kill and disable millions of people are either gone or rarely seen.

Sadly though, vaccination levels are dropping and we’re beginning to see more cases of serious infections such as mumps and measles.

Particularly in recent years, we’ve seen anti-vaccine stories spread quickly online or via messaging platforms. They’re usually not based on scientific evidence and putting off a vaccination could put you or your child at risk of a serious illness.

We cannot be clearer; the NHS vaccination programme uses safe, well tested and monitored vaccines that provide the most effective protection against serious and potentially fatal illnesses.

Please go to a vaccination appointment if you are offered one.

If you’ve been putting it off, it is never too late.

Talk to your healthcare professional about your worries, and then you can feel confident catching up with the protection that you or your child needs.

A woman with her sleeve rolled up has a plaster applied to her arm after vaccination