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Immunising your child is an important part of keeping her healthy as she grows. Here’s what you need to know about injections, the immunisation schedule and family payments.
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Why immunisation is so important

Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting your child and yourself against some diseases that can cause serious illnesses and sometimes death. And if your child is protected, he won’t be able to pass the infection on to other people – especially very young babies who haven’t been fully immunised yet.

Also, some immunisations, including rubella immunisation, help protect unborn babies.

Recommended immunisations

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that Australian babies and children are immunised free of charge against the following diseases:

The Human papilloma virus vaccine is available free of charge to girls in high school.

It’s also recommended that older children and some adults are immunised against meningococcal C, pneumococcal infections, hepatitis A and influenza. Although all Australians can be immunised against these diseases, the vaccines are free only for some high-risk groups.

Several other vaccines, such as cholera, are available to any person if needed (but there will be a cost for these vaccines).

The Immunise Australia Program website has information about the recommended immunisations. The Australian Immunisation Handbook (9th Edn, 2008) is available in full on the Immunise Australia Program website.

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.

Immunisation calculator

The Immunisation Calculator uses the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule and recommends doses of vaccine to be given at specific ages. If doses of vaccine are delayed or missed, the CYH Immunisation Calculator will assist in providing a ‘catch-up’ schedule for future vaccine doses.

The Immunisation Calculator doesn’t address issues related to high-risk children. Talk to your doctor if you need more information about your child.

Reactions to immunisation

After immunisations, some children might have a reaction. Most reactions occur within 48 hours of having the immunisation. Reactions can include feeling unwell, being irritable, having fever and feeling sore around the injection area. These reactions are usually mild and don’t last very long.

If your child becomes obviously unwell, she probably has a different health problem – for example, a cold or other viral infection. It might still be a good idea to have her checked by a doctor.

Reactions to the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine
A reaction to the MMR vaccine might occur 5-12 days after the immunisation and might cause a mild fever, faint rash, head cold, runny nose, cough and/or puffy eyes. This is caused by the measles part of the vaccine. 

Swelling of the glands in the neck might happen about three weeks after the injection. This is caused by the mumps part of the vaccine. 

These reactions don’t make the child infectious.

Reactions don’t usually last for more than 48 hours. The following steps might help to relieve your child’s symptoms: 

  • Place a cold cloth on the injection site if it’s red or swollen (don’t place ice directly on the skin).
  • If your child has a fever or seems in pain, some paracetamol or ibuprofen might help.
  • If your child isn’t eating as much as usual, offer some extra drinks (breastmilk, formula or water). 
  • Your child might need extra cuddling and comforting for a day or so.
See your doctor if your child has severe reactions to immunisation, if the reactions last for more than a couple of days, or if you’re concerned in any way.

Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR)

From 1 January 1996, the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (the Immunisation Register) began recording details of vaccinations given to children under the age of seven who live in Australia.

It gives you and health professionals many benefits, such as:

  • an immunisation history statement when your child turns one, two and five 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.

For more information about the Immunisation Register:

  • call the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 
  • email acir@medicareaustralia.gov.au   
  • access your child’s immunisation history statement online via Medicare Australia Online Services
  • call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450, if you need interpreting help
  • call TTY for the hearing impaired on 1800 552 152
  • call the Department of Health and Ageing’s immunisation infoline on 1800 671 811.

Enrolling your child on the Immunisation Register
Children under seven years of age enrolled in Medicare are automatically included on the Immunisation Register.

Children who aren’t eligible to enrol in Medicare can be added when a doctor or immunisation provider sends the details of vaccinations to the Immunisation Register.

How information is recorded on the Immunisation Register
Information about your child’s vaccinations should be sent as soon as possible by the doctor or immunisation provider to ensure the Immunisation Register is up to date.

How the Immunisation Register helps you keep track of your child’s vaccinations
An immunisation history statement will be sent to you when your child turns one, two and five years of age, or upon request. Information about your child’s immunisation details recorded on the Immunisation Register. Any immunisations that are missing for your child will be included on the statement.

An immunisation history statement can be requested by calling the Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 (free call) or by visiting the Medicare Australia Immunisation Register.

An immunisation history statement will be sent to the most recent address recorded on the Immunisation Register. To ensure you receive your child’s statement, it’s important you notify Medicare and your immunisation provider if you change your address.

Access for your doctor or immunisation provider to your child’s immunisation history
Your doctor or immunisation provider can get information about your child’s vaccinations. This might be useful if your child hasn’t been to that doctor or immunisation provider before, because the provider will be able to decide what vaccinations are due.

Immunisation and family payments

Your child has to be up-to-date with immunisations, or have an exemption, so that your family can receive payments such as the Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement.

Immunisation exemptions apply in the following situations:

  1. Your child can’t be immunised because of a medical condition. Ask your doctor or immunisation provider to complete a Medical Contra-indication form. 
  2. Your child has a natural immunity to a disease, or a vaccine is unavailable. Ask your doctor or immunisation provider to give you a letter explaining the reasons. 
  3. You have a personal, philosophical, religious or medical belief that immunisation shouldn’t occur. Ask your doctor or immunisation provider to complete a Conscientious Objection form.

Medical Contra-indication, Immunisation History and Conscientious Objection forms are available from all Medicare offices, or ring the Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809.

Immunisation information

More information about immunisation is available at the Immunise Australia Program website, developed by the Public Health Division of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. There you will find information on the following:

  • immunisations and the diseases they prevent
  • common misconceptions about immunisation
  • common side effects of immunisation and what to do about them
  • what to tell the doctor or nurse when taking your child for an immunisation
  • immunisation and your eligibility for some government benefits.

Frequently asked questions

Some parents are concerned about possible harm that might be caused to their child by immunisations and are interested in possible alternatives to immunisation.

On the Immunise Australia website, you can find answers to frequently asked questions about immunisation. These might be helpful if you have concerns.

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  • National Health and Medical Research Council. (2008). Australian Immunisation Handbook (9th Edn). Canberra: Commonwealth Government of Australia.

    MacIntyre, C.R., & Leask, J. (2003) Immunization myths and realities: responding to arguments against immunisation. Journal Paediatrics and Child Health, 39, 487-491.