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YOUR BABY'S HEALTH

Vaccinations

Children in the UK receive their first vaccinations at ages two, three and four months. You will get a letter from your health visitor or baby clinic inviting you to bring your child along for vaccination - in many countries, immunisation is a requirement for entry to school, but not in the UK.

The vaccination programme in this country gives children immunity against major infectious diseases. A vaccine, also known as an 'active immunisation', is administered to give long-lasting immunity to a particular disease. It primes the body to make its own antibodies against harmful micro-organisms.

For example, since the introduction of routine immunisation in 1956, the incidence of polio (a virus causing paralysis) has dropped from several thousand cases a year to a handful. In the UK, polio vaccine is given by mouth and contains a modified form of the live virus. If you have any doubts at all about accepting the clinic's invitation:

• Talk them through with your health visitor;

• Read an informative book on the subject, such as 'The Which? Guide to Children's Health', edited by Harry Brown, Which? Books, or 'Childhood Immunisations: A Review For Parents and Carers' by Helen Bedford and David Ellman, published by the Health Education Authority

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