What vaccinations are safe for your child?

© David Bludge Most children are vaccinated before being allowed to attend primary school. But what if you’re not sure that your child should be vaccinated for an illness that might never happen? Experts…

What vaccinations are safe for your child?

© David Bludge

Most children are vaccinated before being allowed to attend primary school. But what if you’re not sure that your child should be vaccinated for an illness that might never happen?

Experts advise parents to consult their GP and involve their GP as much as possible in this decision. A GP can check whether there is a strong scientific argument against a particular vaccine, and they can also ask parents if they really understand the potential side effects of the vaccine, and what specific risks, if any, there could be.

If parents are reluctant to vaccinate, there are a number of issues that parents can consider, including:

1. Possible side effects and risks.

This information can be accessed from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance published in May 2018. It includes statistics of the number of complications arising after a vaccination, along with ages and conditions where vaccination prevented complications. It can also help to find the public health authority in the area where you live, and any specific health organisations that could provide greater support and advice.

2. Whether the vaccine is a good investment for your child’s future.

Parents can view the NICE vaccine prognosis tables online to see the likely clinical benefits of each vaccination programme. One factor to consider is whether the vaccine will offer any benefits to children who are not currently immunised. If vaccination is vital for other children, but not for your child, it could make sense to reduce your vaccination plans and improve the chances of your child not becoming unwell.

3. How your child’s developing immune system will respond to certain vaccines.

Not every vaccine is targeted for all ages, and some of the vaccines that should be considered for lower-age children are some of the most challenging to administer. For example, a traditional flu vaccine would not be suitable for two- and three-year-olds as they are likely to be immunocompromised, as well as prone to reactions.

4. Should your child be vaccinated for an infectious disease that might never occur?

Again, advice on how to pursue this can be found from the NICE guidance. It notes that there are some diseases which are almost impossible to prevent, and therefore those which are taken very seriously. For example, it notes that it is likely that a combination of the MMR vaccine will protect an 11-year-old boy more effectively than one dose individually.

5. What vaccinations the vaccine is recommended for.

It’s worth looking out for specific information about vaccinations your child will be vaccinated for at school, particularly any for which it is not recommended.

These are also provided on the British Medical Journal’s Meningitis Now website, as well as from your local health authority.

A vaccine’s safety is informed by a number of independent checks, including:

Vaccination systems and clinical trials conducted by researchers, which often involves the use of laboratory animals to assess the immunogenicity of the vaccine

The impact of viral infection and associated symptoms on the system;

The prevalence and severity of illness from the disease in cases where vaccination has been given;

Whether there are further specific reports of adverse reactions to the vaccine;

The comparative effectiveness of the vaccine and the other available options;

Information on the safety profile of other similar vaccines.

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