Every child receives vaccinations to prevent illness and disease, but a heart child is especially vulnerable so extra care is taken to protect against things such as meningitis and flu. Your family doctor will have details of all the vaccinations your child should receive but we’ve put together a comprehensive update for extra peace of mind.
The following information has been provided by Dr Esse Menson, Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Disease.
1. Influenza vaccine
Most children with heart conditions aged 2-17 should have the influenza nasal spray (live) – it works better than the “flu jab” injection, is safe and needle free! Heart children who also have severe immune disorders or those taking aspirin should have the flu vaccine injection (killed) instead.
Further guidance here: NHS England Chart: which flu vaccine should children have?
2. Meningitis B vaccine
A new vaccine to prevent meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by meningococcal group B bacteria is being offered to babies as part of the routine immunisation schedule. It will protect babies against infection by this bacteria which are responsible for more than 90% of meningococcal infections in young children.
3. Men ACWY vaccine for teens and students
As a result of increasing cases of a vaccine of meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal group W bacteria in young people the Men ACWY is being offered to children aged 14-18 years. This Men ACWY vaccine replaces the adolescent Men C vaccine, it covers meningococcus bacteria type W and type C and also types A and Y. Immunizing this age group will protect the wider community too. A catch-up programme is being rolled out over several years, first-time university students up to 25 years of age are being offered the vaccine first.
4. HPV vaccine
For teenage girls, the HPV vaccination schedule has been reduced to 2 doses instead of 3. One less injection!
5. Changes in the UK childhood vaccination programme
Changes to the programme are made after careful consideration by an expert panel about the need for additional protection, vaccine effectiveness and safety as well as considering what is children (and parents!) can tolerate – we’ll keep you updated of changes that may affect heart children as well as the routine changes.
As occurs every year, the seasonal influenza (flu) vaccines are given yearly because the strains of flu change year on year. Vaccinating your child will mean your child is less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu. The vaccine helps your child build up immunity to flu in a similar way as natural infection but without the symptoms.
You may remember that since 2013 live attenuated nasal vaccine against flu has been available and has been rolled out to more and more age groups of children since last winter.
Children in clinical risk groups such as heart kids have been given either the nasal spray (containing live but weakened flu virus) or the inactivated injection (containing killed virus) if the live vaccine was contraindicated.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is called Fluenz Tetra:
Children with long-term health conditions such as congenital heart disease are at extra risk from flu illnesses so it is especially important that they are vaccinated against flu each year. Most of this group of children can have the nasal spray flu vaccine instead of the injection if they are aged 2 -17 years of age.
Like all other children, heart children aged between 6 months and 2 years will continue to get the annual flu vaccine injection.
Babies under 6 months of age cannot have either the nasal spray or the injectable flu vaccine – the best way to protect them is to ensure that their mother is vaccinated during pregnancy and that their carers and household contacts are vaccinated against flu.
The number of doses of any flu vaccine that your child should receive (1 or 2) will depend on your child’s age, the vaccine type and whether they have had any flu vaccines in the past. Your GP will advise you what your child needs.
The only heart children who shouldn’t have the nasal flu spray are those who have a severely weakened immune systems due to conditions or immunosuppressive therapy such as:
Or those who are:
It takes up to 14 days for flu vaccines to work and build protection against flu. Also, as the nasal spray contains weakened but live flu vaccine, recently vaccinated people should avoid others with severely weakened immune systems for a week or two after receiving the nasal spray because small amounts of the vaccine virus can be shed over this period.
So, it is in your child’s best interests to have the nasal spray flu vaccine at least 2 weeks before being admitted to hospital. Let’s keep it simply best to ensure that your child receives the flu vaccine as early as you can in the flu season!
If your child is admitted to hospital unexpectedly within 2 weeks of having had a flu vaccine, make sure you tell your medical and nursing team, including the date, type of vaccine (jab or nasal spray) and number of doses.
If your child is in hospital for a long time and could miss their flu vaccine, it may be possible for him or her to have the flu vaccine in hospital. Some hospitals may offer the nasal spray vaccine, others the jab, based on their local policy; both are fine.
Remember to check with your doctors whether your child needs one dose of vaccine or two. If a second dose is needed, it should be given after about 4 weeks – make a note of this so you don’t forget.
Yes, it is recommended that all parents/carers get the flu vaccination, and also any siblings attending nursery or school.
Meningococcal infections can be very serious, causing meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning), can lead to severe brain damage, amputations and, in sadly even death.
Meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal group B bacteria can affect people of any age, but is most common in babies and young children.
The new programme makes England the first country in the world to offer a national, routine and publicly funded Men B vaccination programme.
Below if more information about this new and important vaccine to protect babies from meningitis and septicaemia; the information is taken from the Public Health England website on vaccination and you can get further details there.
Like all vaccines, the Men B vaccine can cause side effects, but studies suggest they are generally mild and don’t last long. Almost 8,000 people, including more than 5,000 babies and toddlers, have had the new Men B vaccine during clinical trials to test its safety. Since the vaccine was licensed, almost a million doses have been given, with no safety concerns identified.
Babies given the Men B vaccine alongside their other routine vaccinations at two and four months are likely to develop fever within the first 24 hours after vaccination. It is important that you give your baby liquid paracetamol following vaccination to reduce the risk of fever. Your nurse will give you more information about paracetamol at your vaccination appointment. Other common side effects include irritability and redness and tenderness at the injection site. The liquid paracetamol will also help with these symptoms.
*There are no changes in the oral rotavirus vaccine introduced last year
Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that typically affects babies and young children, causing a nasty bout of diarrhoea, sometimes with vomiting, tummy ache and some fever.
Most children recover at home within a few days but
The rotavirus vaccine should
Children with heart conditions can safely have the rotavirus vaccine unless they have any of the following:
The vaccine contains only a weakened form of the rotavirus, so traces of it in a baby’s nappy won’t harm healthy people, but could affect those with severe problems with their immune system
HPV vaccination for teenage girls
Recent research has shown that the antibody response after 2 doses of HPV vaccine is as good as after 3 doses in this age group – so more good news, one less injection required.
Meningococcal ACWY vaccination young people aged 14-18
Since 2009 there has been an increasing of cases of meningitis and septicaemia in young people caused by meningococcus type W. After careful review of the evidence, a vaccine to protect against this meningococcus type is being offered to children aged 14-18 years until March 2016. Vaccinating this group with MenACWY vaccine will provide protection to the wider community too.
Meningococcal C vaccination of new university goers
Children are routinely offered the Men C vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme at 3 months, 12 months and 13-15 years (teenage booster).
From late summer 2014, students under the age of 25 who are starting university will also be offered a catch-up booster of Men C vaccine. This student catch-up programme will continue for several years until all university entrants have received a MenC teenage booster or the Men ACWY vaccine.