From September 2006, a new vaccine has been introduced into the childhood vaccine problem in the UK.
It is called the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, or PCV for short, and it is being given to babies at two, four and 13 months.
Why do babies need the PCV?
This new jab protects children against the pneumococcal infection which can cause pneumonia, septicaemia or blood poisoning, and meningitis.
These are illnesses that children under two are particularly at risk from and which can be fatal.
Before now, certain strains of meningitis have been covered in vaccination programmes, but this addresses a different but still relatively common strain.
Who gets the vaccine and where do I go to get it for my child?
It is regarded as an important vaccine for smaller children and is given to babies at two, four and 13 months. The two and four month jabs will be given at the same time that your baby has the first and third set of vaccines for DTaP/IPV and Hib (the 'triple', usually given at two, three and four months).
However, it is believed that other chidlren under the age of two years could benefit from it and a programme is under way now (autumn 2006) to offer the vaccination to children over 13 months and under two years as an option.
As it is a new vaccine, it is now being rolled out across surgeries, therefore a GP will contact you if your child is under two years old and on that surgery's books.
Are there any side effects, or any children who should not have the jab?
As with most innoculations for small babies, your doctor will want to ensure your child does not have an illness with a fever. This is purely because many vaccines carry a slight chance that they will temporarily raise the child's temperature, and a baby who is already hot might therefore go beyond the 39 degress C level, at which they become a concern.
If your child has a minor illness - like a cold - and his body heat is not raised, this means he is still fine to have the injection.
If your child has a bleeding disorder, has suffered a fit that was not caused by being too hot, or has had a bad reaction to a previous immunisation, then talk to your doctor before booking an injection.
For more about PCV, go to www.immunisation.nhs.uk.