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After clean water, vaccination is the most effective public health intervention in the world for saving lives and promoting good health. Vaccines protect us, our children and loved ones from serious and potentially fatal diseases.

Vaccines protect us, our children and loved ones from serious and potentially fatal diseases.

Vaccines cannot give the disease they are designed to prevent. Vaccines contain the same antigens (or parts of antigens) that cause diseases but the antigens in vaccines are either killed, or weakened to the point that they don’t cause disease. However, they are strong enough to make the immune system produce antibodies that lead to immunity. If people are not vaccinated, diseases that have become uncommon such as pertussis (whooping cough), polio and measles, will quickly re-emerge. At least 90% of children have to be immunised to stop a disease from spreading.

In the UK, the national immunisation program is determined by the Department of Health. The routine vaccination schedule starts from 2 months of age to 65 years and over. Other vaccines are available for those with complex health needs or those who are more at risk. Please see below for information on vaccine preventable diseases.

BCG tuberculosis (TB) vaccine

The BCG vaccine protects against tuberculosis, which is also known as TB. TB is a serious infection which affects the lungs and sometimes other parts of the body, such as the bones, joints and kidneys. It can also cause meningitis. To read more about TB visit the TB Alert page. 


Diphtheria is a serious disease that usually begins with a sore throat and can quickly develop to cause problems with breathing. It can damage the heart and nervous system and in severe cases it can kill. 


Flu vaccine for adults

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications. You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you:

  • Are 65 years of age or over
  • Are pregnant
  • Have certain medical conditions
  • Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • Receive a carer’s allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • Are a front-line health and social care worker
  • Are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)

Always seek your GP’s advice regarding your eligibility for the flu jab.

Flu vaccine for children

The flu vaccine for children is needle free, quick and painless. It is given as a single dose of nasal spray squirted up each nostril. Children who have the flu vaccine are less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu virus. For more information visit the Vaccination UK page.

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)/MenC

The Hib/MenC vaccine is a single injection given to 1-year-old babies to boost their protection against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and meningitis C. Hib and meningitis C infections are serious and potentially fatal. They can both cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia). The Hib/MenC vaccine is offered to all babies at the age of 1 year as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. 

Hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B vaccination is routinely available as part of the NHS vaccination schedule. The vaccine gives protection against the hepatitis B virus, which is a major cause of serious liver disease, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.


There are more than 100 types of HPV (human papillomavirus). Different types of HPV virus are classed as either high-risk or low-risk, depending on the conditions they can cause.Often, infection with the HPV causes no symptoms. Some types of HPV can cause warts or verrucas. Other types are associated with cervical cancer. In 99% of cases, cervical cancer occurs as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV. The HPV vaccine protects against the two types of HPV responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers in the UK. 


Measles is a big killer of children worldwide, and even in countries such as the UK, if healthy children catch measles, especially when they are in their teens, they can still die. It is never too late to get protected.


Teenagers and "fresher" students going to university for the first time are advised to have a vaccination to prevent meningitis and septicaemia, which can be deadly. The MenACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia): A, C, W and Y.

Meningitis B

The MenB vaccine is part of the NHS routine childhood vaccination programme. The MenB vaccine will protect your baby against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which are responsible for more than 90% of meningococcal infections in young children.

Meningococcal infections can be very serious, causing meningitis and sepsis (blood poisoning), which can lead to severe brain damage, amputations and, in some cases, death. England was the first country in the world to offer a national, routine, publicly funded MenB vaccination programme.


Mumps is an acute viral illness transmitted by direct contact with saliva or droplets from the saliva of an infected person. Mumps was the commonest cause of viral meningitis in children prior to 1988, when vaccine was introduced. Mumps meningitis can cause brain damage, and rarely, death. It is never too late to get protected. 

Pertussis (also known as whooping cough)

There are three routine vaccinations that can protect babies and children from whooping cough:

  • The whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy – this can protect your baby during the first few weeks of life
  • The 5-in-1 vaccine – offered to babies
  • The 4-in-1 pre-school booster – offered to children

These vaccines don't offer lifelong protection from whooping cough, but they can help stop children getting it when they're young and more vulnerable to the effects of the infection. Older children and adults aren't routinely vaccinated, except during pregnancy or a whooping cough outbreak.


Adults aged 65 and over or those who have a long term health condition can protect themselves from serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections. These infections can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis. In some cases, pneumococcal infections can lead to permanent brain damage or death. 

More than 90 different strains of the pneumococcal bacterium have been identified, 8 to 10 of which cause the most serious infections. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) gives protection against 23 different types of pneumococcus bacteria and has 50-70% effectiveness. The PPV is a single vaccine providing lifetime cover, those with an underlying health condition may need one every 5 years. The vaccine is inactive therefore it cannot cause the disease it protects against. 


Polio is a virus that attacks the nervous system and can permanently paralyse the muscles. It affects the chest muscles which can lead to the person being unable to breathe unaided. Polio can kill. 


The Rotavirus vaccine is an oral vaccine against rotavirus infection, a common cause of diarrhoea and sickness. The vaccine is given as a liquid from a dropper straight into the baby’s mouth for them to swallow.
Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that typically strikes babies and young children, causing an unpleasant bout of diarrhoea, sometimes with vomiting, tummy ache and fever. Most children recover at home within a few days, but nearly one in five will need to see their doctor, and one in 10 of these end up in hospital as a result of complications such as extreme dehydration. A very small number of children die from rotavirus infection each year.


Although generally a mild rash, if contracted in early pregnancy, the baby can be badly damaged, this is known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS). MMR offers protection against rubella. Two doses of MMR vaccine are required to get the best protection. It is never too late to get protected.


Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it. The reawakening of the chickenpox virus causes it. Roughly, 1 in 4 people who have had chickenpox will go on to develop shingles. People tend to get shingles more often as they get older and the older you are, the worse it can be. Symptoms of shingles include pain, followed by a rash which looks similar to chickenpox. This rash will develop into itchy blisters and after a few days, these blisters will turn into scabs. Pain can vary from mild to severe and may be experienced as a dull, constant or as a burning sensation.

Shingles normally lasts around two to four weeks and usually affects a specific area on just one side of the body. Those who are eligible for the vaccine or aged between 70-79 years of age and are unsure, should contact their GP practice.


Tetanus is a painful disease that affects the muscles and can cause breathing problems. It’s caused when germs found in soil and manure get into the body through open cuts and burns. Tetanus affects the central nervous system and it can kill. You may need a tetanus booster for travel.