Subject archives guide - Vaccination

Our subject guides on a range of child health topics are for researchers interested in child health and the history of paediatrics. Vaccinations save lives by protecting large populations from disease and illnesses.
Last modified
12 September 2019


Humans are exposed to countless foreign antigens and infections. Vaccines help to protect against serious and potentially fatal diseases. They are safe and highly effective.1

Vaccines work by inducing active immunity and providing immunological memory, meaning the immune system is able to recognise and respond quickly to an infection.2  If enough people are vaccinated, there can be high levels of population immunity and even eradicate illnesses - smallpox was declared eradicated from the world in 1980.

However, if vaccination levels are not maintained, it would be possible for diseases to return.

Vaccination programmes

Vaccination programmes are when everyone in the population of a certain age group or risk group is offered a vaccine to attempt to reduce the number of cases of an illness. The more people vaccinated, the less likely it is for a disease to spread.

Herd immunity is when a large proportion of a community is vaccinated so diseases are less likely to infect those who have not been vaccinated, for example babies under two months who are too young to be vaccinated and those too sick to be vaccinated.3

Childhood vaccination

As vaccinations aim to protect for life, children receive a lot of vaccinations, especially as young children are particularly susceptible to a lot of infections. Children over two months old begin receiving vaccinations to protect against various diseases, including diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, meningitis, Measles, mumps and rubella.4

Studies have disproven links with vaccinations and autism and that vaccination can overload a baby’s immune system.

Relevant records held at RCPCH

  • Report of the standing Sub-committee on Prophylactic Immunisation (1953)
    Ref: RCPCH/004/006/032Includes a report of the use of vaccination for the treatment of Diphtheria, Whooping Cough, Tetanus and Tuberculosis.
  • Response to the Ministry of Health on Vaccination Policy (1957-1963)
    Ref: RCPCH/007/025Records relating to the BPA representation to the Ministry of Health on their policy regarding vaccination in pregnant women and children, including correspondence and reports.
  • Harmonization of the Vaccination in the European Community (1987)
    Ref: RCPCH/011/008/073Booklet produced by the Confederation of European Specialists in Paediatrics on the harmonization of vaccination in the European community.
  • Vaccinations in the UK (circa 2005)
    Ref: RCPCH/011/008/182Two presentations regarding vaccinations on school vaccinations and UK legislation regarding vaccinations.
  • Comments on Measles Immunisation (1978)
    Ref: RCPCH/003/049/001/007BPA comments regarding ways of promoting measles vaccinations in the same way Whooping Cough vaccinations are promoted in the ‘Scotsman’.
  • Records relating to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation Liaison Committee (1981-1991)
    Ref: RCPCH/003/065Minutes and agendas for meetings of the Joint Working Party of the British Paediatric Association and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation Liaison Group.