Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases.
Things you need to know about vaccines:
- protect you and your child from many serious and potentially deadly diseases
- protect other people in your community – by helping to stop diseases spreading to people who cannot have vaccines
- undergo rigorous safety testing before being introduced – they're also constantly monitored for side effects after they’ve been introduced
- sometimes cause mild side effects that will not last long – some children may feel a bit unwell or have a sore arm for 2 or 3 days
- reduce or even get rid of some diseases – if enough people are vaccinated
- do not cause autism – studies have found no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism
- do not overload or weaken the immune system – it's safe to give children several vaccines at a time and this reduces the amount of injections they need
- do not cause allergies or any other conditions – all the current evidence tells us that vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating.
- do not contain mercury
- do not contain any ingredients that cause harm in such small amounts
Why are vaccines so important?
Getting vaccinated is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health. They prevent up to 3 million deaths worldwide every year.
Since vaccines were introduced in the UK, diseases like smallpox, polio and tetanus that used to kill or disable millions of people are either gone or seen very rarely.
Other diseases like measles and diphtheria have been reduced by up to 99.9% since their vaccines were introduced.
What's in a vaccine?
The main ingredient of any vaccine is a small amount of bacteria, virus or toxin that's been weakened or destroyed in a laboratory first.
This means there's no risk of healthy people catching a disease from a vaccine. It's also why you might see vaccines being called 'live' or 'killed' vaccines.
What's the difference between a live or killed vaccine?
Live (weakened) vaccines:
Contain viruses or bacteria that have been weakened
Cannot be given to people with a weakened immune system
Gives long term protection
Killed (destroyed) vaccines
Contain viruses or bacteria that have been destroyed
Can still be given to people with a weakened immune system
Often needs several doses or a booster vaccine for full protection