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.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that Australian babies and children are immunised against the following diseases:
Vaccines for these diseases are free, but the chickenpox immunisation depends on the age of your child.
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).
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.
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
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 email@example.com
- 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 needs to be up to date with immunisations, or have an exemption, so your family can receive payments such as the Child Care Benefit and the Maternity Immunisation Allowance.
Child Care Benefit
Recent changes to the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) rules mean that children born on or after 1 January 2005 will be considered overdue for their immunisations if they haven’t had the four-year-old vaccines by the time they turn four years and one month.
In these cases, you might receive a letter from Centrelink indicating that ACIR has no record of your child’s four-year-old vaccinations. The letter will advise you that you have a further 63 days to ensure that your child is immunised, and that information about your four-year-old’s vaccination status is sent to ACIR to ensure you retain eligibility for Child Care Benefits.
This rule change took effect from 1 January 2009.
For children born before 1 January 2005, ACIR must have a record that your child has been immunised by the time he turns five years of age to retain eligibility for the Child Care Benefit.
Maternity Immunisation Allowance
As part of the 2008-2009 Budget process, the Australian Government announced a measure to split the payment of the Maternity Immunisation Allowance (MIA) into two payments. Under current arrangements, you can be eligible for the MIA if your child meets the immunisation requirements on or after turning 18 months of age and before two years of age.
From 1 January 2009, MIA will generally be paid in two payments, each equal to half the full current MIA rate at the time each claim is determined. To claim payment of MIA, you must meet the immunisation eligibility requirement and lodge your claim on or before your child’s second birthday to receive the first split MIA payment. To receive the second half of the MIA payment, or the full MIA payment where the first half of the payment hasn’t already been received, you must lodge your claim with the Family Assistance Office (at a Centrelink or Medicare office) before your child’s fifth birthday.
The objective of the split payment measure is to bring MIA more in line with the National Immunisation Program (NIP), and to provide an incentive for parents to ensure their children are immunised before they start school.
If your child’s immunisation status record with ACIR isn’t up to date, you’ll be asked to submit an Immunisation History form completed by your doctor or immunisation provider, confirming that your child is up to date with immunisations, or obtain an exemption. You can also arrange for a catch-up program if further vaccinations are needed.
Immunisation exemptions apply in the following situations:
- Your child can’t be immunised because of a medical condition. Ask your doctor or immunisation provider to complete a Medical Contra-indication form.
- 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.
- 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.
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.