Monthly Archives: February 2023

Childhood Immunisations FAQs


  • What is the MMR vaccine?

The vaccine, protecting against measles, mumps and rubella has been around since 1988, almost 35 years.  It is part of the routine childhood immunisations that are given to your child to protect them from a range of diseases.  The MMR vaccine is usually given when your child is a year old, with a booster given when they are three years and four months old.

We know that lots of children might have missed their vaccine appointments over the past couple of years owing to lockdown.  The good news is that it’s never too late to get both doses of the MMR jabs to give you child lifelong protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

You might have heard stories linking the vaccine to autism. There’s no evidence of any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. There are many studies that have investigated this.  The vaccine is safe, has been used for many years and gives great protection against some potentially serious diseases.

I don’t know if my child has had their jabs – how can I check?

You can check your child’s personal child health record, you might know it as the “red book”. Most people are given it when their baby is born. If you don’t know where yours is don’t worry, make contact with your GP team and ask to know which vaccinations your child has received in the practice.

  • My child has missed their jabs – is it too late?

It’s never too late to catch up on these important vaccinations – you can still ask your GP surgery for the MMR vaccine if your child has missed either of these two doses.

  • Why do we vaccinate?

After clean water, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention.  Vaccines protect you and your child from many serious and potentially deadly diseases.  They undergo rigorous safety testing before being introduced and they’re also constantly monitored for side effects after being introduced.  All medicines and vaccines in use in the UK have been approved by the UK’s independent regulator.

Thanks to vaccines, some diseases that used to kill or disable millions of people are seen very rarely.  However, if people stop having vaccines, it’s possible for infectious diseases to quickly spread again.

  • Do I have to vaccinate my child? How serious are measles, mumps and rubella?

As many people in this country have been vaccinated with the MMR it can be easy to forget what it was like to have these illnesses or to see children with them. They are all highly infectious and can spread easily between unvaccinated people.

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.  Measles can lead to serious problems if it spreads to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain.  If you catch measles when you are pregnant, it can harm your baby.

Mumps is most recognisable by the painful swellings in the side of the face under the ears.  It usually passes without causing serious damage to a person’s health. Serious complications are rare, but mumps can lead to viral meningitis if the virus moves into the outer layer of the brain.

Other complications include swelling of the testicles or ovaries (if the affected person has gone through puberty).

Rubella (german measles) is a rare illness that causes a spotty rash. It usually gets better in about a week, but it can be serious if you get it when you’re pregnant.

The good news is that your children can be protected from these illnesses and their complications safely and easily by having the MMR vaccination.

The health care professionals giving the vaccinations are expert at doing this. They know how to make your child as comfortable as possible and will help you in the consultation.

If you have any questions at all about it please talk to a trusted healthcare professional like a health visitor, school nurse, GP nurse or GP.

For more information on the MMR vaccine please visit



  • What is polio?

Polio is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system – it can cause permanent paralysis of muscles. Before the polio vaccine was introduced, there were as many as 8,000 cases of polio in the UK in epidemic years. Because of the success of the polio vaccination programme, there have been no cases of natural polio infection in the UK for over 30 years (the last case was in 1984) and polio was eradicated from the whole of Europe in 2003

  • Why is polio back in the news?

Polio is not back in England. There have been no clinical cases of wild polio in England. Wild polio is the term used to describe the typical type of polio infection that occurs across the world in unvaccinated communities.  The last case of wild polio in the UK was in 1984 and the UK was declared polio-free by the WHO in 2003.

Since February 2022 traces of type 2 poliovirus have been detected in sewage samples in North and East London. Type 2 polio is the term used to describe polio that occurs as a result of transmission following use of the oral polio vaccine that is offered in some countries. It has been detected in sewage in Barnet, Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.

As part of routine surveillance, it is normal for 1 to 3 ‘vaccine-like’ polioviruses to be detected each year in UK sewage samples when an individual vaccinated overseas with the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) returned or travelled to the UK and briefly ‘shed’ traces of the vaccine-like poliovirus in their faeces.

However, several closely related viruses have been found in sewage samples taken between February and May. The level of poliovirus found and the high genetic diversity among the PV2 isolates suggests that there is some level of virus transmission in these boroughs which may extend to the adjacent areas. This suggests that transmission has gone beyond a close network of a few individuals.

The virus has continued to evolve and is now classified as a ‘vaccine-derived’ poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2), which on rare occasions can cause serious illness, such as paralysis, in people who are not fully vaccinated.

The polio virus found in London should not pose any risk to those who are fully vaccinated. However, whilst it is spreading, there is a small chance that those who have not been fully vaccinated, or those who cannot respond well to vaccines, could be at risk of catching polio. The good news is that we have picked this virus up early and we want to act now to protect as many people as we can. It is important that children are vaccinated against polio, so they are protected and to reduce the risk of the virus continuing to spread. Please come forward as soon as your child is due for their routine vaccination.

  • Is what we are seeing in London linked to cases of polio seen in Israel and New York?

UKHSA are working closely with health agencies in New York and Israel alongside the WHO to investigate the possible links between the poliovirus detected in London and recent polio incidents in these two other countries.

  • How concerned should I be about polio?

The risk to the population is extremely low. The majority of the UK population has already been immunised against polio. The polio virus found in London should not pose any risk to those who are fully vaccinated, which most Londoners are. However, whilst it is spreading, there is a small chance that those who have not been fully vaccinated, such as young children who are only part way through their polio vaccination schedule or those who have missed their routine vaccinations could be at risk of catching polio and getting ill.  Children can access a catch up dose where a routine vaccine has been missed via their GP.


  • What are the symptoms of polio?

Most people with polio won’t have any symptoms and will fight off the infection without even realising they were infected. A small number of people will experience a flu-like illness 3 to 21 days after they’re infected.

Symptoms can include:

  • a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • abdominal (tummy) pain
  • aching muscles
  • feeling and being sick

These symptoms may also be indicative of other common ‘cold like’ viruses that circulate in the autumn and winter and will usually pass within about a week without any medical intervention. If you are concerned about your child’s illness, please contact your GP for advice.

In a small number of cases, between 1 in 100 to 1 in 1000 infections, infection can cause paralysis, usually in the legs, that develops over hours or days. If the breathing muscles are affected, it can be life threatening. Symptoms include rapid onset of weakness in a limb which will be flaccid (or floppy). The weakness most often involves the legs, but sometimes affects the muscles of the head and neck or breathing.

  • What should you do if you experience any polio symptoms?

If you or your child are experiencing symptoms of polio, then we advise you to ask for an urgent GP appointment.

  • What should people do to protect themselves against polio if they live in London?

There is no cure for polio, vaccination is the only protection. Any children that have missed their routine vaccinations need a catch up dose which can be accessed via their GP.

  • What should people do to protect themselves against polio if they live outside of London?

The best way to prevent polio is to make sure you and your child are up to date with your vaccinations. People should also get vaccinated even if they’ve had polio before as the vaccine protects against three different types of poliovirus.

You can contact your GP to check if you, or your child have missed any routine vaccinations. For children and babies, you can also check their personal child health record (red book). It is never too late to catch up and you can catch up for free on the NHS at any time by booking an appointment with your GP surgery.

  • When should my child be vaccinated against polio?

The polio vaccine is free and given as part of combined jabs to babies, toddlers and teenagers. Children need all five doses of the vaccine to be fully protected against polio. The polio vaccine is given when a child is:

  • 8, 12 and 16 weeks old as part of the 6-in-1 vaccine (DTaP/IPV/Hib/HepB)
  • 3 years and 4 months old as part of the 4-in-1 (DTaP/IPV) pre-school booster
  • 14 years old as part of the 3-in-1 (Td/IPV) teenage booster


  • Is there anyone who cannot have a polio vaccine?

There are very few reasons why children cannot receive the polio vaccine. If your child had a serious allergic reaction to a previous vaccination or to certain uncommon antibiotics (neomycin, polymyxin or streptomycin) you may want to check with your doctor. 

  • Will my child still need their regular dose at 3yrs 4 months if they received the booster in 2022?

Even if your child did receive an extra dose, you need to complete the routine doses at the recommended age. Check with your GP surgery.

  • If no cases of polio have been reported, what is the need to get a polio vaccine?

Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are at greater risk of severe illness. Vaccination will help to stop the spread of poliovirus in London.

  • Where do I get my child’s vaccine?

Your child can get their catch-up dose of polio vaccine or other routine vaccinations at their GP surgery.