Overview of immunisations

Immunisation programmes are designed to help protect the population from serious vaccine-preventable diseases.

Immunisation policy in Scotland is set by the Scottish Government Health Directorates on the advice of the Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) (external website) and other appropriate bodies.

The JCVI

  • assesses evidence and makes recommendations for all immunisation programmes
  • advises the UK Government and the NHS in the 4 UK countries about all aspects of immunisation
  • supports implementation of all immunisation programmes.

NHS Health Scotland works closely with Health Protection Scotland (HPS) and NHS Health Board Immunisation coordinators to support the public with information about vaccines offered in the Scottish Immunisation Programme. 

  • Getting immunised is the best way to help protect against serious diseases such as measles, mumps, meningitis, septicaemia, flu, whooping cough and cervical cancer
  • Vaccines are offered across all life stages.
  • All vaccines in the immunisation programme are provided free in Scotland by the NHS.
  • Pregnant women are more at risk of flu-related complications and need extra protection. The flu vaccine can help protect pregnant women and their developing baby against flu. Vaccines offered to pregnant women can be viewed on the pregnancy timeline on the NHS inform website (external website).
  • The annual flu vaccine is offered to everyone aged 65 years or over, anyone with a health condition, all pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy and those who work in healthcare. The flu vaccine is offered every year to children from the age of 2 years until the end of primary school. Visit the Immunisation Scotland flu page (external website) for more information.

Immunisation and health inequalities

Uptake of vaccines in Scotland is generally high, however it is lower in deprived areas, and among certain ethnic minority groups. 

For example, in 2016/17 uptake of the 

  • teenage booster immunisations was lower for pupils living in the most deprived areas
  • Td/IPV vaccine was 79% in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared to 92% in the least deprived areas.

For more information on vaccine uptake, and trends over time, visit the HPS surveillance data and systems page (external website).

Local and national action

Information for the public

We produce information for the public on each of the immunisation programmes. 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 website). The Scottish Immunisation Programme is also supported by the NHS inform helpline (external website).

We work with key stakeholders who conduct research on barriers to accessing immunisations in deprived areas and among certain ethnic minority groups. This research informs how we develop our public facing information on immunisations.

We are also part of the Scottish Health Protection Network (SHPN). This is a network of professional organisations and networks in the health protection community across Scotland. It aims to promote, sustain, and coordinate good practice. It supports a systematic approach to development, appraisal and adaptation of guidelines, seeking excellence in health protection practice.

The latest information on vaccines and immunisation procedures for health professionals in the UK, can be found in the Green Book.

Immunisation programmes vary across the UK. For immunisation information specific to Scotland, you can visit the NHS inform website.

The Scottish Vaccine Update (external website) provides frontline health professionals with current information, announcements and practical advice about immunisation policy, practice and vaccine supply in Scotland.

Safety and reporting side effects

Once vaccines have been licensed for use, their safety continues to be monitored from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)(external website). Side effects are reported using the Yellow Card Scheme (external website).

Travel vaccinations

TRAVAX (external website) is provided for professionals and is maintained and continually updated by the travel health team at Health Protection Scotland. It is a UK National Health Service resource.

Health information for overseas travel - the ´Yellow Book´ (external website) aims to provide a one-stop source of information for health professionals about the common health risks to travellers and how to reduce them. 

Fit for Travel (external website) contains travel health and vaccine information for people travelling abroad from the UK.

Training

You can find training opportunities on the NHS Education for Scotland website (external website). Visit Promoting Effective Immunisation Practice (external website), a resource supporting immunisation training. For further education and training events, visit the HPS website (external website).