The Public Health Agency of Sweden
Published 10 July 2018

Catch up vaccinations

Guidelines for children who have started vaccinations in other countries and children born in Sweden who have not followed the regular programme.

Vaccination programmes differ considerably between countries. The differences involve what diseases you vaccinate against, the number of doses during the primary-vaccination stage, the age of the first dose, the number of doses and the age of booster doses.

Differences between countries

Many countries recommend a general vaccination against tuberculosis, chicken pox, meningococcal diseases and hepatitis, but in Sweden, these vaccines are only recommended to certain risk groups. In Sweden, however, a general vaccination is recommended against mumps, rubella, pneumococcus and Haemophilus influenzae type b, which is not offered in all countries.

In most industrial and developing countries, the first vaccine dose against diphtheria-tetanus-whooping cough is given at 1–2 months of age, while in Sweden, we start offering these vaccinations at 3 months. The age of the first dose of the measles vaccine varies from 9 months (primarily in the developing countries) to 18 months (in Sweden). Another great difference concerns the polio vaccine, which is given as oral drops in certain developing countries, but as a shot with a combination vaccine in Sweden and many other countries.

Assessing vaccination needs

The vaccination needs of children who arrive in Sweden from other countries must be individually assessed depending on the child's age and what is known of vaccinations in their home country. Sometimes, it may be necessary to test the child for antibodies against diphtheria, tetanus and measles. It may be necessary to reinitiate the entire vaccination programme. Furthermore, measles vaccinations before the age of one must be repeated and if the child has been given the oral polio vaccine, this must be supplemented with the injected polio vaccine.

Continuing started vaccinations

Children who have not completed the vaccination programme, for example due to spending an extended time abroad, must continue the vaccinations as soon as possible. This also concerns children who, due to illness or social reasons, have interrupted their vaccinations. With very few exceptions, children never have to start anew and previously administered doses can be counted, even if the interruption has lasted many years. The exceptions apply to children who have very serious illnesses, mainly those who have undergone a transplantation. Children may then have to start the vaccination programme anew, sometimes after antibodies against major diseases have been measured.

Supplementing the general programme

In accordance with the Public Health Agency of Sweden's regulations, minors under the age of 18 years shall be offered supplementary vaccinations if they have not been vaccinated in accordance with the national programme for children. Child and school health services are each responsible for their separate age groups.

More information

National vaccination schedules in Europe (ECDC)

National vaccination schedules in the world (WHO)

Foreign Language Terms – Aids to translating foreign immunization records (CDC)