Myths about children's vaccines

Can you overload a baby's immune system with too many vaccines? Should your toddler have an MMR jab if they have severe eczema? Is it true that babies shouldn't go swimming before they've had their jabs?

There are many myths and misunderstandings about whether it's safe to have a vaccine. Here are the facts.

Vaccination facts

1. Don't have a vaccination when you're ill

It's a FACT that you should postpone your child's jab if they are ill and have a fever (high temperature).

You may also want to postpone vaccination if your child has had a bad reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine. This doesn't mean that they will never be able to have the vaccine again, but it's a good idea to speak to your GP, practice nurse or health visitor first.

2. Don't have a vaccination if you have an allergy

It's a FACT that your child shouldn't have a vaccine if they've had a confirmed anaphylactic reaction (a severe allergic reaction) to a previous dose of the vaccine or an ingredient in it.

3. Don't have a "live" vaccine if you have a weakened immune system

Live vaccines are ones that contain the virus or bacteria they're supposed to protect against, albeit in a weakened form.

It's a FACT that your child shouldn't have live vaccines, such as BCG (tuberculosis vaccination) or MMR, if:

  • your child is taking high-dose steroid tablets, or is taking lower doses either alongside other drugs or over a long time. If you're not sure, check with a GP
  • your child is being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or has had these treatments within the last six months
  • your child has had an organ transplant and is on immunosuppressant drugs
  • your child has had a bone marrow transplant and finished all immunosuppressive therapy within the last 12 months
  • your child's immune system is lowered. If you're not sure, check with a GP

Read more about live vaccines.

Vaccination myths

1. It is a MYTH that you have to avoid or delay your child's vaccination if they have a mild illness without a fever, such as a cough or cold, or if they have an allergy, such as asthma, hay fever or eczema.

2. It is a MYTH that you have to avoid or delay your baby's vaccinations if they were premature. Read this NHS leaflet on vaccinations for premature babies (PDF, 221kb).

3. It is a MYTH that you have to avoid your baby's vaccinations if they have a history of febrile seizures or convulsions (related to fever) or epilepsy, or there's a family history of such conditions.

4. It's a MYTH that vaccinations can overload a baby's immune system. In fact, only a tiny fraction of your baby's immune system is used by childhood vaccines, and they come into contact with many more bugs in their daily life. This video explains why vaccines don't weaken your child's immune system.

5. It's a MYTH that homeopathy can be used as an alternative to vaccinations to protect children against potentially serious infections. In fact, there's no evidence that homeopathy can protect children against disease and illness.

6. It's a MYTH that it is unsafe to take your baby swimming around the time of a vaccination. In fact, you can take your baby swimming at any time before and after their vaccinations.

Now, read about why it's a good idea to have your child vaccinated

Page last reviewed: 07/04/2016

Next review due: 30/11/2017


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Download this personalised vaccination calendar, which highlights the dates your child needs to have their vaccinations by

Vaccinations: part one

Watch part one of the vaccination series to find out why not being vaccinated because of worries about side effects means serious illnesses can become more common.

Media last reviewed: 14/07/2015

Next review due: 14/02/2018

Vaccinations: part two

Watch the second part of a series about immunisation to find out why it's important to stay up-to-date with your vaccinations.

Media last reviewed: 14/07/2015

Next review due: 14/02/2018