Childhood immunisations is highly recommended for all Australians. Having your child immunised helps to protect them from the most serious childhood infections.
The National Immunisation Program (NIP) Schedule is a series of immunisations given at specific times throughout yours and your child's life. The immunisations range from birth through to adulthood. If your child stays on track with their immunisation schedule, the vaccines are free under the NIP.
A baby gains passive immunity during pregnancy when the mother has been immunised or has previously had that infectious disease. However, the level of protection can be low or can wear off which puts the baby at risk. This can be prevented with vaccination.
A vaccination dose for children can contain one specific immunisation or provides immunity for a range of diseases. The number of injections your child needs may also be reduced if a number of vaccines are combined in the same injection. Most vaccinations for children are given as an injection in the arm or leg. An exception is for Rotavirus, which is a vaccine administered by mouth.
What are immunisations and how do they work?
Immunisation is an effective way of safely giving you protection against disease. Immunisation not only protects you and your family, but also the whole community by helping to control serious diseases.
Immunisation protects people against harmful infections before they come into contact with them. It uses your body’s natural defences to build resistance to specific infections. Therefore, they can strengthen your immune system to help your body fight against nasty bacteria and viruses. Some groups of people are more at risk than others in the community and may need additional vaccinations.
Getting vaccinated is one of the safest ways to protect against diseases. The Australian Government receives advice from experts and researchers to ensure safe immunisation services. Serious side effects are rare.
What immunisations does your child need?
The Victorian immunisation schedule outlines the vaccines that are routinely provided free of charge to all Victorian children under the National Immunisation Program and the Victorian funded program. It also outlines the age at which each vaccination should be given. New vaccines against serious infections continue to be developed and the schedule might be updated in the future.
How to prepare for your child's immunisation.
Remember to bring your child's My Health and Development Record (the green book) or your child's health record booklet to their immunisation appointment. This way, your doctor or nurse is aware of your child's immunisation status and update their record.
These records also serve as your reminder for when your child's next immunisations are due. It also helps you to understand which members of your family are immunised. You can digitise your immusation records by setting up an eHealth record for your child and downloading the My Child's eHealth Record app. If your child misses an immunisastion, the vaccine schedule can be continued once you have discussed this with your doctor or nurse. They can advise you on your next steps and if any catch-up doses are required.
The pre-immunisation checklist
Before your child's immunisation appointment, please tell the doctor or nurse if your child:
is unwell (temperature over 38.5 C)
has had a severe reaction following any vaccine
has any severe allergies to any other medication or substances
has had any vaccine in the past month
has had an injection of immunoglobulin or received any blood products or a whole blood transfusion within the past year
was a pre-term infant born less than 32 weeks gestation, or weighing less than 2,000 g at birth
as a baby, has had an intussusception (a blockage caused by one portion of the bowel sliding into the next piece of bowel like the pieces of a telescope)
has a chronic illness
has a bleeding disorder
does not have a functioning spleen
lives with someone with a disease or who is having treatment that causes lower immunity - examples include leukaemia, cancer or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), oral steroid medications, radiotherapy or chemotherapy
has a disease which lowers immunity (such as leukaemia, cancer, HIV or AIDS) or is having treatment that causes low immunity (such as oral steroid medication, radiotherapy or chemotherapy)
identifies as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person
Can your child attend childcare without immunisation?
In Victoria, parents of children attending a childcare or kindergarten service are required to provide an up-to-date Immunisation History Statement. This will enable the childcare or kindergarten service to have the most current immunisation status of your child.
To further encourage parents to immunise their children, a number of government family assistance payments require children to meet the vaccination requirements.
What to look out for after your child's immunisation.
There is a very small risk of a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to any vaccine. This explains the reason why you are asked to remain at our medical centre for at least 15 minutes following immunisation. Our doctors and nurses are on-hand in case further treatment is required.
Some children may experience a reaction to a vaccine. The Australian Government receives advice from experts to ensure immunisations are effective and as safe as possible. In virtually all cases, the side effects are not as serious if your child was to contract the disease itself.
Some side effects may include a mild fever, pain at the injection site, soreness, redness, itching, swelling or a burning feeling. These usually occur for one to two days after vaccination. Remember to ask your doctor or nurse for what side effects to look out for and how to treat any mild symptoms.
If a side effect following immunisation is unexpected, persistent or severe or if you are worried about yourself or your child's condition after a vaccination, see your doctor or nurse or call an out-of-hours GP service (e.g. call 13 SICK / 13 74 25) or go directly to a hospital.
Immunisation side effects may be reported to SAEFVIC, the Victorian vaccine safety service (Tel. 1300 882 924 and select option 1).