Child and teenager immunisations

As children develop they are exposed to many risks, one of these risks being infections. Most of these will cause mild illnesses. However, infection can still cause severe illness, disability and, at times, death. 

Before vaccines were available, many children in the UK died from diseases such as whooping cough, measles and polio. The development of effective vaccines has led to a huge decrease in childhood deaths.

The benefit of immunisation is that children and teenagers have the best possible protection against dangerous diseases.

  • You can view the vaccination schedule on NHS inform (external site). 
  • Every year, the flu vaccine is offered to children 2 years of age until the end of primary school.
  • Children 3 years and 4 months of age are offered the DTap/IPV and MMR vaccines which are often called pre-school boosters.
  • Teenagers are offered the Td/IPV booster and the MenACWY vaccines at school.
  • Teenagers who have now had two doses of the MMR vaccine may be offered the second dose at school.
  • The HPV vaccine is offered to all girls 11 years of age at secondary school.
  • For children and teenagers with a health condition the flu and pneumococcal vaccines are recommended.

Child and teenager immunisations and health inequalities

Uptake of immunisation amongst children and teenagers in Scotland is generally high, however rates are lower in more deprived areas.

Uptake can differ when looking at deprivation, with rates being lower amongst children and teenagers living in the most deprived areas, or who are from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups, or those with a learning disability.

Local and national actions

Information for the public

NHS Health Scotland works closely with Health Protection Scotland, NHS Education for Scotland, Scottish Government and NHS Health Board Immunisation Coordinators to provide up-to-date resources about the immunisation programmes offered in Scotland.

Easily accessible resources in the right format and language can help parents and teenagers with informed participation.

All our public information is available in English, Urdu, Chinese and Polish, and Easy Read. We are happy to consider requests for other languages and formats and such requests can be emailed to nhs.healthscotland-alternativeformats@nhs.net.

Information for the public is available on NHS inform (external site).

Recommended vaccines

Health care practices can order a routine childhood immunisation programme poster from their local health information resource service. You can also view a copy on the routine childhood immunisation programme poster download page.

Flu immunisation

Influenza (Flu) immunisation is offered from October onwards to children aged 2 years until the end of primary school.

Children 2 to 5 years (must be 2 on 1st September 2018) are offered the vaccine at their GP practice. Children in primary school receive the vaccine at school.

The vaccine is given as a painless nasal (nose) spray. The annual flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect children against this unpredictable virus. The Scottish Government Chief Medical Officer letter (external PDF, 188KB) provides information on key elements of the child flu Immunisation Programme 2018. Resources such as posters, leaflets, template letters and consent form guidance have been produced for health professionals and school staff supporting the programme.

Resources such as posters and web images to help promote the child flu vaccination are available on the NHS inform website.

For information on the adult seasonal flu immunisation programme, go to our adult immunisations page.

There is further information for the public on NHS inform.

The DTaP/IPV vaccine

The DTaP/IPV vaccine is offered to children aged 3 years and 4 months boosting protection against diphtheria tetanus pertussis (whooping cough) and polio.

The MMR vaccine 

The MMR vaccine is given is offered in two doses. The first is when the child is at 12-13 moths, and then at 3 years and 4 months of age. The vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect children against measles, mumps and rubella. Teenagers who haven’t had two doses of the vaccine may also be offered the vaccine during their routine teenage immunisation at school.

The Td/IPV vaccine

The Td/IPV vaccine is offered to teenagers between 13 and 18 years of age at school. The Td/IPV vaccine completes the 5 dose course that provides complete protection against tetanus, diphtheria and polio.

The MenACWY vaccine

The MenACWY vaccine is offered to all teenagers who are in S3 (around 14 years of age) at school. Young people who are in S4 to S6 and missed the opportunity to get immunised in S3 may also get the vaccine as a catch up. The vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect against meningitis and septicaemia caused by four groups of meningococcal bacteria A,C,W and Y. The Scottish Government Chief Medical Officer letter August 2015 (external site) provides information on key elements of the Td/IPV Immunisation Programme.

The HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine is offered to girls from age 11 years at secondary schools across Scotland. The vaccine helps protect against cervical cancer. It is offered in 2 or 3 doses over a period of 12 months depending on the age of when the first dose is received.

The Scottish Government Chief Medical Officer letter (August 2017) provides information on key elements, and changes to the schedule of the HPV immunisation Programme September 2014 (external site). Resources for head teachers and school staff have been developed to support the HPV immunisation programmes in schools. 

Go to additional resources supporting the HPV programme.