Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting children against certain diseases. The risks of these diseases are far greater than the very small risks of immunisation.
Immunisation protects children (and adults) against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.
It uses the body’s natural defence mechanism – the immune response – to build resistance to specific infections and helps children stay healthy by preventing serious infections.
Vaccines for babies and young children are funded under the Immunise Australia Program.
In Australia, babies and children are immunised against the following diseases:
- haemophilus influenza type B (Hib)
- hepatitis B
- meningococcal C
- pneumococcal infection
- poliomyelitis (polio)
- rotavirus (for babies under six months)
- whooping cough.
Children can also have the flu vaccine each year, which is available in autumn. Children aged 12 to 13 should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) through their schools.
Most vaccines recommended in the program are given by injection. Some combine several vaccines in the one injection.
Learn more about the difference between vaccination and immunisation.
The immunisation schedule is available at Immunise Australia’s website www.immunise.health.gov.au.
Why do children get so many immunisations?
A number of immunisations are required in the first few years of a child’s life to protect the child against some of the most serious childhood infectious diseases. The immune system in young children does not work as well as the immune system in older children and adults, because it is still immature. Therefore more doses of the vaccine are needed.
In the first months of life, a baby is protected from most infectious diseases by antibodies from their mother which are transferred to the baby during pregnancy. When these antibodies wear off, the baby is at risk of serious infections and so the first immunisations are given before these antibodies have gone.
Another reason children get many immunisations is that new vaccines against serious infections continue to be developed. The number of injections is reduced by the use of combination vaccines, where several vaccines are combined into one injection.
Where you can have your child immunised
Immunisations can be provided by your doctor, immunisation clinics, local councils, community child health nurses and some hospitals.
Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR)
A record of your child’s immunisation history is kept by the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), which is run by Medicare Australia.
It gives you and health professionals many benefits, such as:
- an immunisation history statement when your child turns 1, 2 and 5 years of age
- documents to help with eligibility for some family payments
- the option of getting a copy of your child’s immunisation details at any time
- the ability to track immunisation levels in Australia to assist health professionals to monitor disease outbreaks.
To get your child’s records, should you need it as part of your child’s school requirements, you can contact the AIR by phone on 1800 653 809.
No jab, no pay
In order to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement and Child Care Benefit, your child needs to be up to date with their immunisation schedule or have a medical exemption if they are unable to be vaccinated.
Find out more at the Department of Social Services.
What are the side effects of immunisation?
Many children get minor side effects such as redness, soreness and swelling at the injection site, mild fever, and being irritable or unsettled. If your child has any of these side effects, give them extra fluids to drink, don’t overdress them if they feel hot and consider giving them paracetamol to help ease any fever or soreness. Most side effects are short-lasting and the child recovers without any problems.
Serious reactions to vaccinations are very rare. However, if they do occur, take your child to the doctor immediately.
Immunise Australia Information Line on 1800 671 811 or visit their website www.immunise.health.gov.au.
Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 or visit their website www.humanservices.gov.au.