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When it comes to vaccinations, many new parents (and experienced ones) have a lot of questions. We’re no experts, but have consulted the experts over the years to answer your vaccination FAQs.

When should I take my child for his vaccination? Or: Has my child missed a vaccine?

It is advisable to follow the schedule laid out by the Department of Health or by your private baby clinic. This schedule can be found on your baby’s clinic or Road to Health card. As vaccines are administered, they are marked off on the card, so any missed vaccinations will be apparent on this card.

I don’t know if the hospital gave my child their vaccinations at birth. What should I do?

The hospital should have a record of any vaccinations given to your child. Ask at the hospital for these records. If your child did not receive the recommended vaccinations, speak to your clinic about catching up on these as soon as possible.

The hospital/clinic says that such-and-such a vaccine is only given at private clinics. Is that true?

The Government EPI (Expanded Programme on Immunisation) recommends vaccinating against infections like measles, polio, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenzae type b, rotavirus diarrhoea, pneumococcal diseases and tuberculosis. These vaccines should all be available at government hospitals and clinics.

Private clinics may also recommend additional vaccines, such as the chicken pox (varicella) vaccine and the MMR vaccine. They may also provide variants of the EPI vaccinations.

Occasionally, hospitals or clinics may experience a shortage of a certain vaccine, and may therefore recommend visiting a private clinic or returning to the hospital on another day.

I’ve lost my child’s clinic card. What do I do now?

Many schools ask that you provide a copy of your child’s clinic card, so that they can check if vaccines have been done, so it is important to keep your child’s clinic card in a very safe place, especially if you are moving house. If you have lost the card, the clinic/s where your child received vaccinations should have a record of these, so you can ask them for this information.

My child missed his vaccine. Can he still get it?

This is what Professor Claudia Gray has to say: “Yes you can. Vaccinations are generally safe across the age groups and postponing vaccines is generally not an issue. However, certain vaccines only carry a licence for certain age groups, mainly because they were only studied in that age group or because the immune system responds in different ways at different ages, leading to different recommended vaccines at the various ages.

Ask your clinic sister or doctor if the vaccine is still fine to give at your child’s age. If not, there will certainly be a similar alternative providing the relevant vaccine cover.” Each situation is unique depending on the age of the child, how many vaccinations were missed and which ones, so the best thing to do is consult your doctor to get individualised advice.

I don’t know if my child had his vaccine. Or: They’re giving booster vaccines. Is there any danger in having another dose of a vaccine?

According to the Department of Health, getting an additional dose of a vaccine is not harmful. So if you are unsure if your child has received a shot or not, they can receive the vaccination again. However, as mentioned above, some vaccines are recommended for different ages or stages, so it is best to speak to a healthcare professional about your individual circumstances.

Why does my child need more than one measles vaccination?

The national EPI recommends measles vaccines at 6 months and 12 months of age. The vaccine is less effective in infants less than one year old, so a minimum of two doses are essential. During outbreaks or mass campaigns, older children, adolescents or adults can also be vaccinated against measles.

Are vaccinations compulsory/required by law?

No, vaccinations are not compulsory or required by law. However, not vaccinating your child can put them at a greater risk should they get infected with that disease. Vaccinations, while not 100% preventative, help limit the chance of your child getting ill, and should they get sick, vaccination can decrease the severity of the disease.

When as many people as possible get vaccinated against a disease, the chance of this disease spreading is greatly lessened. Not vaccinating your child means you are increasing the chances of the disease spreading, as well as putting others at risk – some children are unable to receive vaccinations for medical reasons.

Read Vaccinated or Vulnerable for more info.

My child was playing with another child who had measles/chicken pox, should I be worried?

If your child has been vaccinated then there is only a small chance that he will get sick. On top of this, the symptoms are likely to be less severe if he has been vaccinated.

Should there be a widespread outbreak of a disease, such as measles, the government may initiate a vaccination campaign, recommending booster vaccines be taken. In this event, contact your local clinic about getting the booster for your child.

When in doubt …

If you have other questions, or are at all uncertain about the best course of action, speak to your doctor or clinic. Your local baby clinic will have current information and be able to give you the best advice.

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