In the United Kingdom, quite a lot of vaccines are offered for free on the NHS according to the established vaccination schedule. This schedule includes everything from the first polio vaccine given to eight weeks old babies to the shingles vaccine offered to 70-year-old pensioners.
In addition to these vaccines, there are also vaccines that are only available on the NHS for those who fall into certain risk groups. Examples of such risk groups are people with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and healthcare workers. For more information, contact your GP or the NHS. Within this group of vaccines, you will, for instance, find influenza and whooping cough vaccinations offered to pregnant women and the TB vaccination available for free to people with an increased risk of exposure to TB infection. Hepatitis B vaccination and chickenpox vaccination are two other examples of vaccinations that you may be eligible for without cost from the NHS if you belong to a risk group.
When it comes to travel vaccines, there are some that you can have for free on the NHS from your local GP surgery. This group includes the hepatitis A vaccine, the typhoid vaccine, and the cholera vaccine. Other travel vaccines come with a fee at the GP surgery or are only available at private clinics. One example of a travel vaccination that is only available privately is the yellow fever vaccination. On average, expect to pay around £60 for a single yellow fever vaccination.
Getting the appropriate vaccinations are only one of the health concerns that you should address before going on a vacation. You should also make sure that you bring enough of any medicines you are going to need (including the prescriptions for customs) as well as your hearing aid, your glasses or contact lenses and all other equipment you need. I recommend that you always bring more than you expect to need so that you have everything you need even if there is an accident or one of your bags get stolen.
The prominent Swedish website http://www.linser.com recommends that you bring one box of soft one-day lenses with you on vacation even if you usually wear glasses. They argue that an unboxed box of lenses take very little space in your bag and is a good alternative if your glasses break during your vacation. You can use them until you get back home and can get a new pair of glasses from your optician. I think this is excellent advice. I can see how it would be a Godsend to be able to pick a pair of contact lenses out of my handbag if my glasses were ever to break. I have started having a box of lenses in my handbag in the UK as well. This way I know that I will always be able to see.
Vaccines routinely offered to everyone in the UK for free on the NHS
Vaccines for children during their first year of life
The first vaccination appointment for children in the United Kingdom is scheduled for when the child reaches eight weeks of age. At this appointment, the child will receive the Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, the Rotavirus vaccine, the Men B vaccine against meningococcal meningitis type B, and the 5-in-1 vaccine.
The 5-in-1 vaccine is a single injection that includes vaccines against five different diseases: polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (known as Hib – a bacterial infection that can cause severe pneumonia or meningitis in young children).
When the child is twelve weeks old, it is time for it to get a second dose of the 5-in-1 vaccine and a second dose of the Rotavirus vaccine. The child should also get its first dose of the Men C vaccine against meningococcal meningitis type C.
When the child is sixteen weeks old, it is time for it to get a third dose of the 5-in-1 vaccine, a second dose of the Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine, and a second dose of the Men B vaccine against meningococcal meningitis type B.
Vaccines for the 1-year-old child
When the child is one year of age, it should receive the following immunizations:
- MMR. This is a combined injection that includes vaccines against measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine. This is the child’s third dose of PCV vaccine.
- Men B vaccine. This is the child’s third dose of Men B vaccine.
- Hib & Men C booster. This is a combined injection that includes vaccines against both Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and Men C. It will be the child’s second dose of Men C vaccine and fourth dose of Hib vaccine. (The previous three doses of Hib vaccine was included in 5-in-1 injections.)
Flu vaccine for children aged 2 – 6 years
An annual children’s flu vaccine is offered every year for children in this age group.
Vaccines for children aged 3 years and 4 months
When the child is 3 years and 4 months old, it should receive two injections:
- The second dose of the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella.
- The 4-in-1 pre-school injection that includes vaccines against polio, diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. (Unlike the 5-in-1 injection, the 4-in-1 injection does not include any vaccine against Hib.)
HPV vaccine for girls aged 12-13 years
Girls are given two doses of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine when they are 12-13 years old. The second dose is given 6 – 12 months after the first dose. Both doses are given in the form of an injection.
If a girl misses either of her HPV vaccinations she can have them later, but if she is older than 15 years of age she will need three doses instead of just two. Girls can have the HPV vaccination on the NHS up to the age of 18.
Vaccines for 14-year-olds
14-year-olds are given two injections:
- The Men ACWY vaccine against four different types of meningococcal meningitis.
- The 3-in-1 teenage booster that contains vaccines against polio, diphtheria, and tetanus.
Vaccines for 65-year-olds and up
- When you turn 65, you will be offered a Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine. This is not an annual vaccine – the injection you get at 65 is expected to keep you protected for the rest of your life.
- For anyone aged 65 or above, a new influenza vaccine is offered every year. This is an annual vaccine, you need to get a new injection every year prior to the flu season.
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The shingles vaccine for 70-year-olds and 78-year-olds
The shingles vaccine is available on the NHS for people aged 70 years and 78 years. (Some people are also eligible at 79 years.)
The shingles vaccine is not available on the NHS if you are aged 80 or over.