Childhood Immunisation Program: Frequently asked questions

What if my child was not born in Australia?

Children can receive free vaccines as long as they have or are eligible for a Medicare Card. If your child has received some vaccines overseas, your immunisation provider can review and develop a catch-up schedule to get your child up to date as per the Australian immunisation schedule.

What if my child is not eligible for a Medicare card?

Your child can still receive any scheduled vaccines, however, you will need to visit a general practitioner or other immunisation provider, and you will need to pay for the vaccines. For more information on where to find an immunisation provider, see the Immunisation services page.

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 she is living with hepatitis B or
  • the baby from contracting the disease from household members who are living with hepatitis B.

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

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

In the first months of life, babies have some protection from many vaccine preventable diseases by the mother's antibodies transferred to the baby during pregnancy. When these antibodies wear off, the baby is at risk of these serious diseases. The first childhood immunisations are given before the antibodies wear off completely. The earlier the baby can be protected, the safer they will be from these diseases.

Giving immunisations on time at 6 weeks of age, 4 and 6 months of age, will reduce the risk of a baby getting sick.

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

On the routine immunisation schedule at the 6 weeks and 4 month visit, your baby will need two injections and some medicine to swallow. In South Australia, an additional vaccine to protect against meningococcal B will also be offered at these visits. At the 6 month visit, your baby will need one injection and may also be offered a flu vaccine. Some babies may require extra vaccines at 6 months if they are considered at increased risk for some vaccine preventable diseases.

Your baby will be vaccinated to protect against many different diseases through the national and state funded immunisation programs.

To give your baby the best protection - all immunisations must be given on time.

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 travellers. Continuing to vaccinate against these diseases is the only way to try and keep individuals and the communities in Australia protected.

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.

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 due to a mild fever
  • 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.

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.

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.

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 extensively assesses each vaccine for safety and effectiveness. The assessment is based on scientific evidence (clinical trials). This testing is required by law and is usually done over many years during the vaccine’s development.

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

It is important when your child is being vaccinated to tell the doctor, nurse or health worker if your child identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, as there are extra vaccines recommended for them 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.

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

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, which may further delay them receiving the recommended vaccines. This may mean there is more disease in the community.

Do Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children in SA need extra immunisations?

Yes. Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children living in South Australia should receive all the routine vaccines as well as additional vaccines at 6 months, 18 months, 4 years and 9 -14 years of age.

The free flu vaccine is also recommended every year for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from 6 months of age.

Why do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children need the 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 are given at 18 months of age with a second dose at 4 years of age. This will provide long term protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children against this disease.

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 and are exposed to many more different strains of this disease.

Pneumococcal disease causes high rates of ear infections (otitis media) and lung infection (pneumonia). This is why a total of six doses are recommended for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, administered at 6 weeks, 4, 6 and 12 months of age, as well as additional doses at 4 years and 9 -14 years of age.

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 rotavirus vaccine as this can only be given below a certain age. Missing the liquid vaccine means they may not have protection against rotavirus infection that causes diarrhoea and vomiting and can cause severe dehydration.

Why does my child need booster vaccines?

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

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.

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.

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.

Aboriginal children are recommended to receive a pneumococcal vaccine at 9-14 years of age.

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.

Immunisation history statements can be accessed by:

  • Medicare online account through myGov
  • Express Plus Medicare mobile app (through an existing myGov account)
  • Contacting the Australian Immunisation Register general enquiries line 1800 653 809 and requesting a statement be mailed out.

See the Guide to accessing immunisation history statements (PDF 535KB) for more information.

Once your child turns 14 years of age they will be able to access their own immunisation records.

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.