The best way to help protect your child against severe illness from whooping cough, measles, and other childhood diseases is to get them up to date with their routine vaccinations.

Find out how vaccines work in this short video from the British Society for Immunology. And remember, all children are entitled to free NHS vaccinations.

Measles and the MMR vaccine

Measles is an infection that spreads very easily and can lead to serious problems in some people. Having the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is the best way to protect you and your child from becoming seriously unwell with measles.

Two doses of the vaccine are needed for full life-long protection against these three diseases. In south east London children are offered the vaccine at 12 months and 18 months old.

If you or your child have not been fully vaccinated, you can contact your GP practice to book and appointment to catch up.

Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free and you do not need proof of address, ID or immigration status.

Click here to find a GP local to you.

Falling vaccination rates put more children at risk

Since 1 October 2023, there has been an increase in measles cases across London and England.

London has much lower rates of routine childhood vaccinations than other parts of England regions. Just 74% of children have had two doses of the MMR vaccine by the age of five in London. This is well below the 95% target set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), needed to eliminate these diseases.

Why do children need the MMR vaccine?

The MMR vaccine gives life-long protection against measles, mumps and rubella. These three infections can spread easily between unvaccinated people and can lead to serious problems such as meningitis, blindness and hearing loss.

Click through to find out why these are a threat to children’s health now and in the future:

Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Click here to find out more.

Is the MMR vaccine safe?

The MMR vaccine is very effective. After 2 doses:

  • around 99% of people will be protected against measles and rubella
  • around 88% of people will be protected against mumps

The MMR vaccine is very safe. Most side effects are mild and do not last long, such as:

  • the area where the needle goes in looking red, swollen and feeling sore for 2 to 3 days
  • around 7 to 11 days after the injection, babies or young children may feel a bit unwell or develop a high temperature for about 2 or 3 days

Some children might also cry and be upset immediately after the injection. This is normal and they should feel better after a cuddle.

It’s important to remember that the possible complications of infectious conditions, such as measles, mumps and rubella, are much more serious.

Scroll the timeline from left to right to see at which age children’s vaccinations are due

8 weeks
8 weeks

• 6-in-1 vaccine (1st dose)
• Rotavirus vaccine (1st dose)
• MenB (1st dose)

12 weeks
16 weeks
16 weeks

• 6-in-1 vaccine (3rd dose)
• MenB (2nd dose)

1 year
1 year

• Hib/MenC (1st dose)
• MMR (1st dose)
• Pneumococcal (PCV) vaccine (2nd dose)
• MenB (3rd dose)

18 months
2 to 10 years
2 to 10 years

• Flu vaccine (every year)

3 years and 4 months
3 years and 4 months
12 to 13 years
12 to 13 years
14 years

Did you know:

  • Vaccines reduce the spread of infectious disease and even get rid of some completely
  • When enough people get vaccinated, it’s harder for a disease to spread to those who can’t have vaccines
  • Getting vaccinated protects not only you but also your family, friends and community
  • Vaccines are made to prevent people from getting serious infectious diseases. It’s much safer for your immune system to learn to fight illness through vaccination than by catching and treating them.

More information about vaccines is available on the NHS website.

A full list of all the vaccinations that children in the UK are entitled to and should have is available at NHS vaccinations and when to have them.

If you would like to know more about vaccines including vaccines by age group, schedules, the research behind vaccines and how they help prevent illness and spread, go to the Oxford University Vaccines Knowledge Project – a source of independent, evidence-based information about vaccines and infectious diseases.


Failing to protect children increases risk to health

In recent years, fewer children have been getting vaccines they need to help prevent illness now and in future.

In 2021, nearly 15% of children in London didn’t have their 6-in-1 vaccination – which protects against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b and hepatitis B.

In 2021 – 2022, only 79.9% of children in London had their vital MMR vaccine – protecting them against measles, mumps and rubella.

The numbers of children having both vaccines are well below the World Health Organisation target of 95%. That’s why we are encouraging parents and carers to find out more and ensure their children are up to date with their vaccine schedule – also known as their ‘Red Book’. (Source)

Please click the links below to find out more.

6-in-1 vaccine

The ‘6-in-1’ vaccine is one of the first vaccines your baby will have.

It’s given as one single injection to protect your baby against six serious childhood conditions:

When babies should have the 6-in-1 vaccine

The 6-in-1 vaccine is given to babies when they’re 8, 12 and 16 weeks old.

They need 3 doses to make sure they develop strong immunity to the conditions the vaccine protects against.

Every time another dose of the vaccine is given, your baby’s immune response increases.

It’s best if your baby has the 6-in-1 vaccine at the recommended age so that they’re protected from serious conditions as early in life as possible.

If your baby has missed an appointment for the 6-in-1 vaccine, it’s never too late to have it. Make an appointment at your GP surgery or local child health clinic.

Find out more about the 6-in-1 vaccine at 6-in-1-vaccine-overview.

Polio vaccination

Polio is a serious infection that’s now very rare because of the vaccination programme. It’s only found in a few countries and the chance of getting it in the UK is extremely low.

Polio in the UK

There have been no confirmed cases of paralysis due to polio caught in the UK since 1984.

Although some poliovirus has been found in sewage from London recently, the risk of getting it remains extremely low. In 2022 children in London were offered a top up polio booster vaccine to help boost against possible infection after this discovery.

The chance of getting ill from polio is higher if you are not fully vaccinated, so it’s important to make sure you, and your child, are up to date with your vaccines. Babies will normally have the polio vaccine as part of the 6-in-1 set of vaccines.


Flu is caused by the influenza virus. It can be a very unpleasant illness for children. It can also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Children can catch and spread flu easily. Vaccinating them also protects others who are vulnerable to flu, such as babies and older people. The children’s flu vaccine can also help protect against becoming ill from Strep A infections.

Strep A / Scarlet Fever

Strep A, also known as Group A Strep, strep, and strep throat, is a common bacteria called group a streptococcus (GAS). Lots of us carry it in our throats and on our skin and it doesn’t always result in illness. However, Strep A does cause a number of infections, some mild and some more serious.

Milder infections caused by Strep A include scarlet fever, impetigo, cellulitis, tonsillitis and pharyngitis (a sore throat).


Girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years (born after 1 September 2006) are offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as part of the NHS vaccination programme.

The HPV vaccine helps protect against cancers caused by HPV, including:

It also helps protect against genital warts.

In England, girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years are routinely offered the 1st HPV vaccination when they’re in school Year 8. The 2nd dose is offered 6 to 24 months after the 1st dose.

It’s important to have both doses of the vaccine to be properly protected.

If you’re eligible and miss the HPV vaccine offered in Year 8 at school, it’s available for free on the NHS up until your 25th birthday for:

  • girls born after 1 September 1991
  • boys born after 1 September 2006

Find out more about HPV and HPV vaccines at HPV vaccine overview.


Measles, mumps and rubella are highly infectious conditions can easily spread between unvaccinated people.

Getting vaccinated is important, as these conditions can also lead to serious problems including meningitis, hearing loss and problems during pregnancy.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide the best protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Please note that in most London Boroughs, the first dose of MMR vaccine is normally given when your child is 12 months old, and the second when children are aged 18 months.

Frequently asked questions

How do I know if my child is up to date with vaccines they need? Or I don't know if my child has had the vaccines they should have – how can I find out?

You can contact your GP surgery to check if your child is up to date with their vaccinations. For children and babies, you can also check their personal child health record (the ‘Red Book’). If your child is not registered with a GP, you can still arrange a vaccination.

My child isn’t registered with a GP – how do I get them vaccinated?

If your child is not registered with a GP, you can still arrange a vaccination. Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It’s free to register. You do not need any proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

Click here to find a GP local to you.

You can either register your child online or call or email the GP surgery and ask to be registered as a patient. Once you are registered the NHS will let you know when you can book your polio appointment. There is also information on large-scale vaccination centres in south east London where you can book an appointments in the ‘Where do I get my child’s vaccine?’ section above.

When should I contact NHS 111 or my GP?

Contact your GP or use the NHS 111 website if your child is:

  • Unable to swallow saliva or is drooling
  • Seems dehydrated (sunken eyes, drowsy or not passed urine for 12 hours)
  • Is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • Is becoming drowsy (excessively sleepy) or irritable (unable to settle them with toys, TV, food or picking up) – especially if they remain drowsy or irritable despite their fever coming down
  • Has extreme shivering or complains of muscle pain
  • Develops a painful, red swollen gland in their neck which is increasing in size
  • Is 3-6 months of age with a temperature of 39°C / 102.2°F or above (but fever is common in babies up to 2 days after they receive vaccinations)
  • Continues to have a fever of 38.0°C / 100.4°F or more for more than 5 days
  • If your child has recently had scarlet fever but now appears to have a puffy face/eyelids, tea ‘coca-cola’ coloured urine (pee), or a swollen, painful joint(s)
  • Is getting worse or if you are worried
  • Read more about Strep A, scarlet fever and other, related symptoms including advice on when to worry about coughs, colds, earache and sore throats in the ‘When should I worry’ booklet

If none of the above features are present, please continue looking after your child at home and ask for help from your pharmacist to keep your child more comfortable.

When should I call 999 or go to A&E?

Call 999 or go to A&E If your child has any of the following:

  • Is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
  • Becomes pale, mottled and feels abnormally cold to touch
  • Is going blue around the lips
  • Too breathless to talk / eat or drink
  • Has a fit/seizure
  • Becomes extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction), confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake) or floppy
  • Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)
  • Is under 3 months of age with a temperature of 38°C / 100.4°F or above (unless fever in the 48 hours following vaccinations and no other red or amber features)
  • Read more about Strep A, scarlet fever and other, related symptoms including advice on when to worry about coughs, colds, earache and sore throats in the ‘When should I worry’ booklet

South East London Integrated Care Board (the ICB) is an NHS organisation and is responsible for coordinating NHS vaccination services in south east London.