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Childhood Immunisation Program: Frequently asked questions

What if my child was not born in Australia?

Children can receive free vaccines as long as your child is eligible for a Medicare Card. This includes those children not born in Australia who may have received some of the childhood vaccines overseas.

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Why does my child need a hepatitis B vaccine at birth?

The birth dose is recommended to prevent:

  • the mother from infecting her baby if the mother is a  hepatitis B carrier or
  • the baby from contracting the disease from household members who are hepatitis B carriers

See the hepatitis B vaccine or frequently asked questions for more information.

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Why do babies need to be immunised at 6 weeks, 4 and 6 months of age?

In the first months of life, your baby has some protection from many diseases by the mothers antibodies transferred during pregnancy. When these antibodies wear off, your baby is at risk of serious infections. The first immunisations are given before the antibodies wear off completely. The earlier they can be protected, the safer they will be.

Giving immunisations on time at 6 weeks of age, 4 and 6 months of age, will help stop your baby from getting sick.

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How many vaccines will my baby need at 6 weeks, 4 and 6 months of age?

At each visit at 6 weeks of age, 4 and 6 months of age your baby will need two injections. Some medicine to swallow is also given at the first and second visit.

Your baby will be vaccinated to protect against eight different diseases.

To give your baby the best protection, all immunisations must be given on time, at the right time.

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Why should my child be vaccinated against diseases that are not around anymore?

While immunisation has eliminated some diseases from Australia, we are still at risk of these diseases being reintroduced in our community because of overseas travelers. Continuing to vaccinate against these diseases is the only way to make sure individuals and the community are protected in Australia.

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Where can I go to get my baby’s immunisations?

Your doctor, local council immunisation clinic, community health centre or Aboriginal Health Service can immunise your baby. Be sure to tell the health worker if either parent identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as your baby will need additional immunisations.

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What can I expect after my baby has been immunised?

Being immunised is safer than having the disease the immunisation protects against. However, sometimes immunisation can cause minor and short-lasting reactions. These reactions can include your baby:

  • being sleepy
  • not hungry
  • feeling hot
  • redness around the injection area
  • having diarrhoea
  • being irritable.

If you are worried about your baby after they have had their immunisations you should talk to your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section.

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What if my child has had a reaction to vaccines previously?

Before you have your child immunised, tell the doctor or nurse if your child has had a previous reaction to a vaccine.

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Are there any reasons to delay immunisation?

There are very few medical reasons to delay immunisation. If your child is sick with a high fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius, then immunisation should be postponed until the child is well. Children with minor coughs and colds without a fever, or those children receiving antibiotics and recovering from an illness, can be immunised safely and effectively.

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Have the vaccines been tested for safety?

Yes. Before a vaccine or any medication can be used in Australia it must be licensed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA use scientific evidence (clinical trials) to extensively test each vaccine for safety and effectiveness. This testing is required by law and is usually done over many years during the vaccine’s development.

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Why is my child's Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander status important for immunisation?

It is important when your children are being vaccinated to tell the doctor, nurse or health worker that your child's identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as there are extra vaccines recommended for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children on the immunisation schedule. The extra vaccines are important to prevent some vaccine preventable diseases that are more common in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

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Why is it important for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to be vaccinated on time?

Many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children are vaccinated much later than the recommended age, or miss out entirely.

Immunising your child on time will protect your child, your family and the community against diseases. When children do not have the vaccines on time, they can get sick from disease when they are most vulnerable, and they may not get the recommended vaccines. This may mean there is more disease in the community.

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Do Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children need extra immunisations?

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children living in South Australia should receive all the routine vaccines given to other children and two additional vaccines at 12 months and one extra vaccine at 18 months of age.

The free flu vaccine is also recommended for all Aboriginal children aged 6 months of age to less than 5 years of age, every year.

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Why do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children need the extra hepatitis A vaccines?

Hepatitis A is a viral infection affecting the liver and is more common in Aboriginal children. In South Australia immunisations for hepatitis A can be given as early as 12 months of age with a second dose 6 months later. This will provide long term protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children against this disease.

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Why do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children need the extra pneumococcal vaccine?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are at increased risk from pneumococcal disease for a longer time than non-Aboriginal or non-Torres Strait Islander children and are exposed to many more different strains of the disease.

Pneumococcal disease causes high rates of ear infections (otitis media) and lung infection (pneumonia). This is why they need to receive an extra booster against this disease at 12 months of age.

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What happens if I am late in taking my baby for their immunisations?

If you are late, your baby can still have most of their immunisations but may miss out on receiving the liquid vaccine as this can only be given below a certain age. Missing the liquid vaccine means they may not have good protection against diseases that cause diarrhoea (rotavirus).

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Why does my child need booster vaccines?

In many cases, vaccination provides lifelong protection against a disease but it varies for different vaccines.

Protection against some diseases, such as whooping cough, fades over time. Repeat vaccinations (known as boosters) are necessary for your child to maintain a high level of protection against these diseases. The first booster in the childhood schedule is at 18 months of age, and the second booster is at 4 years of age. An additional booster is also recommended in the School Immunisation Program in high school.

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What if my child has not had the four year old booster vaccinations?

Boosters can still be given even if your child has missed out or is running late for their vaccinations.

Speak to your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section to find out what to do.

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When will my child be due for immunisation again, after the four year old booster?

The next recommended vaccines will be offered to your child in high school. See the School Immunisation Program for more information.

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How do I get a copy of my child’s immunisation history?

Once your child is immunised, your doctor or immunisation provider are required to report this information to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). This register maintains your child's immunisation history up to 19 years of age who live in Australia.

You can request a copy of your child’s immunisation history from the register through the Medicare Australia website. You will need to register on the Medicare Australia website before you can request your child’s immunisation history statement. Alternatively, you can call AIR and request a statement to be posted to you.

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Where can I get more information?

For more information on vaccinations or other immunisation information contact your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section.

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