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Other immunisations

BCG vaccine 

This is given when your child is between 10 and 14 years. It is sometimes given to babies shortly after they are born.The BCG vaccine gives protection against TB (tuberculosis).

What is TB?

TB is an infection that usually affects the lungs. It can also affect other parts of the body such as the brain and bones. 

I didn’t think you could get TB in this country.

Although TB is no longer common in this country, there are between 5000 and 6000 cases a year. TB is on the increase in Asia, Africa and some Eastern European countries.

When do children normally have the BCG vaccine?

Most children have the BCG injection when they are between 10 and 14. Your child will have a skin test to see if he or she already has immunity to TB. If not, the immunisation is given. Babies under three months who are having the immunisation don’t need to have the skin test.

Are there any side-effects of the BCG immunisation?
A small blister or sore appears where the injection is given. This is quite normal. It gradually heals leaving a small scar.

Hepatitis B vaccine

This protects against hepatitis B.

What is hepatitis B?
There are several different types of hepatitis and they all cause inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis B virus is passed through infected blood and may also be sexually transmitted. Some people carry the virus in their blood without actually having the disease itself. If a pregnant woman is a hepatitis B carrier, or gets the disease during pregnancy, she can pass it on to her child. The child may not be ill but has a high chance of becoming a carrier and developing liver disease later in life. 

Can this be prevented?
Yes, all pregnant women will be offered testing for hepatitis B during their antenatal care. Babies born to infected mothers will receive a course of vaccine to prevent them getting hepatitis B and becoming a carrier. The first dose should be given shortly after or within 24 hours of birth, and two more doses should be given at one and two months with a booster at twelve months.

Are there any side-effects?
Side-effects of the vaccine tend to be quite mild. The injection site is often red and can be sore for a few days afterwards. 

If a mother has hepatitis B, is it still safe to breastfeed?
Yes, you are still safe to breastfeed as long as the baby is immunised.

Alternatives to immunisation 

Is immunisation voluntary?
In the UK parents can choose whether to have their children immunised. Children who are not immunised run a risk of catching diseases and having complications. Immunisation is the safest way to protect your child. Having children immunised at an early age means they are well protected by the time they start playgroup or school where they are in contact with lots of children. If you have any doubts or questions about immunisation, talk to your health visitor, practice nurse or doctor. 

Can homeopathic vaccines protect against infection?

No, there is no proven, effective alternative to conventional immunisation. Homeopathic medicine has been tried as an alternative to the whooping cough vaccine but it was not effective. The Council of the Faculty of Homeopathy (the registered organisation for doctors qualified in homeopathy) advises parents to have their children immunised with conventional vaccines.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.