Common Questions

For babies born 1 July 2015 - 30 September 2016

Answers to the most common questions parents ask

Download the booklet "Your child's immunisation - A guide for parents" for information about the primary childhood programme (Birth - 13 months) - English or Irish Version

 

Why are vaccines given at such an early age?

Vaccines are given at an early age because young babies are most vulnerable to these diseases and need to be protected as early as possible. For example, babies younger than 6 months are at the highest risk for serious complications of pertussis (six out of 10 need to go into hospital, and nine out of 10 deaths from whooping cough are in this age group). The MMR vaccine is not usually recommended for children under 12 months because it may not work properly.

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How serious are these diseases?

Any of them can kill a child or an adult. It's easy to forget how serious they are because - thanks largely to vaccines - we don't see them nearly as much as we used to.

Measles used to kill thousands of people in Europe and the United States every year. In the 1940s and 1950s, tens of thousands of children were crippled or killed by polio. As recently as the mid 1980s, 100 children a year in Ireland suffered from meningitis and other serious complications as a result of Hib infection.

These diseases have not changed. They can still cause pneumonia, choking, meningitis, brain damage and heart problems in children who are not protected. These diseases still kill children in many parts of the world, even in Ireland.

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Are too many vaccines given?

Some parents worry that giving several vaccines at once will overload their child's immune system or that the vaccines may not work properly. However, there is nothing to worry about as your child's immune system can easily cope with vaccines. Studies have shown that vaccines are just as safe and just as effective when they are given together as when they are given separately. For example, if your child received single injections instead of the combined MMR vaccine, they would be exposed to the diseases of measles, mumps or rubella for a longer period and would have to have six injections instead of two.

A number of injections are needed to give your child the fullest possible protection, so it is important to complete the course. The number of injections is reduced by the use of combination vaccines where several vaccines are combined into one injection.

The ages at which vaccines are recommended are chosen to give your child the earliest and best protection against disease.

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Will immunisations still work if my child doesn't get them at the right time?

Yes. Most of these vaccines can be given at any age, and a child who misses one injection in a course of injections does not have to start again. The vaccines already given will still work and your child will still develop protection. Just ask your GP.

Your child needs to get the vaccines at the right age so that they are protected from serious diseases when they are most vulnerable.

GET THE VACCINES ON TIME EVERY TIME

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What will happen if my child doesn't get these vaccines?

Basically, one of two things could happen:

  • If your child goes through life without ever being exposed to these diseases, nothing would happen.
  • If your child is exposed to any of these diseases, as a child or as an adult, there is a good chance that he or she will get the disease.

Your child could

  • get mildly ill and have to stay inside for a few days; or
  • get very sick and have to go into hospital or at worst die.

Your child could also spread those diseases to others who are not protected, such as children who are too young to be vaccinated. Many people could get very sick and some could die if not enough people in your community are protected.

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What are my child's chances of being exposed to these diseases?

Some of these diseases are very rare in Ireland today, so the chances of exposure are small, but others are still fairly common. Some of the diseases are rare in Ireland but common elsewhere in the world, so your child could get those diseases while travelling abroad.

You shouldn't assume your child is completely safe from diseases, even the rare ones. Diphtheria still occurs in some Asian countries. In 2010 a large polio epidemic took place in Eastern Europe. Polio still occurs in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

With increased travel to and from these countries, it is possible that these diseases will become more common. If enough people don't get immunised, epidemics will definitely follow.

If your child is not immunised, they are at a greater risk of getting these infections when they are older. Some infections are more serious in teenagers or adults than in children. For example, mumps in teenage boys or young men may cause swelling of the testicles and if a woman catches rubella during the early stages of pregnancy, this may cause major birth defects in the baby. Measles can be more serious in adults.

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Do vaccines always work?

Vaccines work most of the time, but not always. Most childhood immunisations protect 90% to 99% of the children who get them, but sometimes a child will not respond to certain vaccines. This is another reason why it's important for all children to be immunised. A child who has not responded to immunisation depends on the immunity of others around them for protection. Your child could be infected by a child who hasn't been immunised, but not by one who is immune.

Effectiveness of Vaccines
Vaccine Percentage of children immune
after getting the recommended
doses of vaccine
BCG vaccine Up to 80%
Diphtheria vaccine 97%
Hepatitis B vaccine 80 to 100%
Hib vaccine 95 to 100%
MMR vaccine 95%
Men C vaccine 90%
Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine 75 to 90%
Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) 90%
Polio vaccine 99%
Tetanus vaccine Almost 100%

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What are the names of the vaccines my baby will recieve?

The table below shows the vaccine product name and the company that makes the vaccine.

Age Vaccination Product Name Manufacturer
At Birth* BCG BCG SSI
2 Months

6 in 1

PCV

Infanrix Hexa

Prevenar 13

GSK

Pfizer

4 Months

6 in 1

MenC

Infanrix Hexa

Menjugate

GSK

GSK

6 Months

6 in 1

PCV

Infanrix Hexa

Prevenar 13

GSK

Pfizer

12 Months

MMR

 

PCV

Priorix or
MMRVaxpro


Prevenar 13

GSK or
Sanofi Pasteur MSD

Pfizer

13 Months

MenC

Hib

Menjugate

Hiberix

Novartis

GSK

* The HSE continues to experience ongoing delays with the supply of BCG vaccine. Click here for more information

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Where can I find out more information about these vaccines?

All vaccines used by the HSE as part of the immunisation programme are licensed by the Irish Medicines Board and the European Medicines Agency.

The following websites provide detailed licensed information about the vaccines.

This information can be found in the patient information leaflet (PIL) and the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC).

To search these websites you need to know the name of the vaccine. The product names of each vaccine used in the primary childhood immunisation schedule are

Vaccine Product Name Manufacturer
BCG* BCG SSI
6 in 1 Infanrix Hexa GSK
PCV Prevenar 13 Pfizer
MenC Menjugate GSK
MMR

Priorix

or

MMRVaxpro

GSK

 

Sanofi Pasteur MSD

Hib Hiberix GSK

* The HSE continues to experience ongoing delays with the supply of BCG vaccine. Click here for more information

* BCG PIL and SmPC are available at the following sites 
SmPC for BCG http://www.hpra.ie/img/uploaded/swedocuments/LicenseSPC_PA0798-002-001_10032015102039.pdf 
PIL for BCG: http://www.hpra.ie/img/uploaded/swedocuments/2154093.PA0798_002_001.5b50067d-5964-4dff-8d66-081f7341c67f.000001BCG%20Vaccine%20PIL.150309.pdf

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What is in vaccines?

Vaccines contain active ingredients (the vaccine itself) and additives such as preservatives and stabilisers.

Active ingredients

Vaccines are made from the same germs that cause infections, but the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so that they won't make your child sick and are safe to use.

Additives

Vaccines may contain:

  • a small amount of preservative to protect the vaccine from contamination
  • other additives to make sure that the active vaccine ingredient is evenly mixed throughout the injection mixture and
  • a small amount of aluminium salt, which helps the body to respond better to the vaccine.
  • The level of additives in vaccines is very low and within internationally recommended levels. These additives do not cause any serious health problems in babies and young children.

There is no thiomersal in any of the vaccines used in the childhood immunisation programme in Ireland.

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Where can I find a list of vaccine ingredients?

The following websites provide detailed licensed information about vaccines including the ingredients:

To search these websites you need to know the name of the vaccine. The product names of each vaccine used in the primary childhood immunisation schedule are:

Vaccine Product Name Manufacturer
BCG* BCG SSI
6 in 1 Infanrix Hexa GSK
PCV Prevenar 13 Pfizer
MenC Menjugate GSK
MMR

Priorix

or

MMRVaxpro

GSK

 

Sanofi Pasteur MSD

Hib Hiberix GSK

* BCG PIL and SmPC are available at the following sites 
SmPC for BCG http://www.hpra.ie/img/uploaded/swedocuments/LicenseSPC_PA0798-002-001_10032015102039.pdf 
PIL for BCG: http://www.hpra.ie/img/uploaded/swedocuments/2154093.PA0798_002_001.5b50067d-5964-4dff-8d66-081f7341c67f.000001BCG%20Vaccine%20PIL.150309.pdf

The list of ingredients is available in the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL)

More detailed information can be found in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPCs). SPCs follow a standard format and to find what is in each vaccine you should look at

Section 2 - qualitative and quantitative composition

and

Section 6.1 - list of excipients.

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Are vaccines safe?

The vaccines used in Ireland are safe. All medicines can cause side effects, but with vaccines these are usually mild, like a sore arm or leg or a slight fever. Serious side effects to vaccines are extremely rare.

Research from around the world shows that immunisation is the safest way to protect your child's health. Your doctor or nurse can discuss the risks with you before giving your child their vaccines.

All the recommended vaccines used to protect children in Ireland are licensed by the Irish Medicines Board or the European Medicines Agency. They are allowed to be used only after they have been shown to be both effective and safe.

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What about the scare stories?

We know that vaccines don't cause autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, allergies, asthma or attention deficit disorder (commonly known as hyperactivity). However, when things happen to our children around the same time as they are immunised we can wrongly presume that there is a link. For example, the signs of autism usually become noticeable at about the age when children are given the MMR vaccine, but one does not cause the other. Because most children get immunised, those who have conditions such as autism, asthma or attention deficit disorder will probably have been immunised as well. Studies to see if children who have been immunised are more likely to have these conditions have shown that there is no link between the conditions and vaccines.

Extensive research into the MMR vaccine, involving thousands of children, was carried out in the UK, the USA, Sweden and Finland. This research showed that there is no link between MMR and autism. One study looked at every child born in Denmark from 1991 to 1998. During that time, 82% of children born in Denmark received the MMR vaccine. The researchers looked at the records of over half a million children and found the risk of autism was the same in immunised children as in children who had not been immunised. Experts from around the world, including the World Health Organization, agree that there is no link between MMR and autism.

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Where can I get a copy of my child's vaccination records?

The primary childhood immunisation programme is carried out by your GP (family doctor) practice, they should have a copy of the vaccinations they have given to your child. The records may also be available from your local health office.

In most areas the school immunisation programme is carried out by the HSE school immunisation teams and the vaccination record will be held in your local health office. In a small number of areas the school vaccinations are carried out in GP practices and records should be available through your GP or local health office.

The National Immunisation Office produces immunisation passports that you or the vaccinator can fill in so all of your child's records can be kept together. To order a copy of this booklet for your child's vaccinations please click here.

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This page was updated on 03/08/2016