Guide for Parents about Childhood Vaccines







We spoke to parents to find out what questions they have about childhood vaccines. This page gives you answers to common concerns such as:

  1. How do vaccines protect my child?
  2. What ages should babies and children be vaccinated?
  3. How do I get my child vaccinated?
  4. Where can I get further information?

1. Vaccines and protection

Why does my child need vaccines?

Vaccines help protect your child from diseases that used to kill or harm many babies, children and adults. For example, polio is a dangerous disease that is now rare is because of the widespread use of vaccines.

What would happen if we stopped giving children vaccines?

If we stopped giving our children vaccines, dangerous diseases, such as polio, could become common again. There are some children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. These children are at risk of serious diseases if other children are not vaccinated. Vaccines protect your child, and they also protect the most vulnerable children in your community.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines contain a small and harmless amount of the virus or bacteria that causes a disease. When your child gets a vaccine, it sets off antibodies to fight the virus or bacteria. If your child comes in contact with the virus or bacteria again, they will have these antibodies to fight it and they won’t get sick. This means that your child is now immune to the disease.

Are vaccines safe?

Yes, vaccines are very safe. All vaccines are fully tested before they are approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). Across the world, millions of children safely receive vaccines each year. The amount of virus or bacteria in a vaccine is harmless. There may be some side effects. The vast majority of these are minor and include redness, swelling or a slight fever. Statistically, the degree of serious reactions is low. You can read more about side effects using our further information section below or something like that.

Can the vaccine make my child unwell?

No, the vaccine will not make your child ill. There are many myths, rumours and scare stories about vaccines that are not true, especially on the internet. If you wish to read more about vaccines, make sure that you can trust the information you are reading.

2. Ages when vaccines are due

Why do babies and young children get so many vaccines?

Babies and young children are vulnerable to disease and need to be protected. They can be exposed to disease from family members and other close contacts. Some of these diseases can be life-threatening. For instance, meningitis can cause life-threatening blood poisoning (septicaemia) and result in permanent damage to the brain or nerves.

Babies and young children get different vaccines at certain times. These times are set out in a vaccine schedule (a calendar). This schedule is designed to protect babies and young children so that they get protection from serious diseases before they come into contact with serious diseases. (This schedule is also called the immunisation schedule.)

Some vaccines are repeated throughout the schedule to make sure your child is fully protected. By vaccinating your child according to the schedule, your child will be protected when they need it the most. Have a look at the current vaccine schedule for children in Ireland in the table below. For example, you can see that at 2 months your child will get 3 vaccines and these will be given by mouth (orally). Different vaccines protect against different diseases.

Download and print our easy-to-use vaccination chart for parents.

Our specially designed and easy-to-use chart for parents explains when vaccinations are due in Ireland. You can download and print our FREE 'Every Child Needs 5' Immunisation chart for parents - we even recommend placing it in a convenient place, such as a fridge.

Should I delay or skip some vaccines for my child?

No, there is no good reason to delay or skip any vaccine. If you delay or skip vaccines for your child, they will not be protected when they need it most.

We know that some people worry about giving their child multiple vaccines at the same time, but medical experts have confirmed that it is safe to receive multiple vaccines at the same time.

Are there any alternatives to vaccines?

No. Only vaccines can protect your child against the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable diseases. Some people think that if you allow a child to get the disease, they will develop ‘natural immunity’ and that this will ‘boost their immune system’. However, remember that these diseases are life-threatening. Without a vaccine, your child could become seriously ill or even die if they catch one of these diseases.

3. How do I get my child vaccinated?

Where are free vaccines given to children in Ireland?

Where you get your child vaccinated depends on the age of your child and your local circumstances and services. You child will go to visit their doctor for a vaccine three times in their first six months.

Childhood vaccines are provided for free in:

How can I prepare my child for their vaccines?

Below are some tips to help you prepare your child before each vaccination visit:

To support your child during the vaccine visit, try these tips:

4. Further information & practical advice

Download this page in pdf format

Download FREE World Health Organisation Document on Myths and Facts about Immunisation and Vaccines

Accurate and trusted sources of vaccine information can help you in making the decision to vaccinate your child. These trusted sources are the doctors, scientists, and public health professionals who have spent their careers studying vaccines.

The parents we spoke to say they talk to their healthcare professional if they have any concerns or questions about vaccines. However, they describe difficulties trusting the vaccine information they come across online. Click here for accurate information on vaccines from trustworthy websites.

In addition, the following questions and tips can help you consider if the vaccine information you are searching for is accurate.

Who wrote this?

Remember to check the author's qualifications and credentials. You can do this by doing an online search on whoever wrote the information.

Is the information accurate?

Remember to check the information to make sure it is accurate and trustworthy. You can do this by reading the information thoroughly, making sure that the content is reflected in the title and doing an online search to check if the website or site has a good reputation.

Does the information fit in a little too perfectly with what I believe about vaccines?

Remember, you are looking for the facts, not something that agrees with your beliefs about vaccines. Take a moment to think about what you are reading and why.

Immunity means protection against an infectious disease. This means that you will not catch a disease if you come in contact with it.

Immunization means the process that helps your body to become immune to certain diseases. Immunity is provided by vaccinations.

Vaccine means a preparation that stimulates the body's immune system to make protective substances against a particular disease.

Vaccination means inserting a vaccine into the body (usually with a needle).

A vaccine schedule sets out the correct time to give children various vaccines. The layout of this schedule ensures that children receive protection when they need it. This is also called the immunization schedule.

Infectious diseases are vaccine-preventable diseases, caused by viruses and bacteria but can be prevented by getting vaccines. These preventable diseases through vaccination have existed for thousands of years. Many children and adults have died or become seriously ill as a result of these diseases in the past before vaccines became available.



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