Why Immunising Your Children Is So Important

There are a lot of myths and doubts out there about vaccinations. Here’s the truth – what vaccinations kids in Australia need, why they’re safe, and why every child needs to be immunised.

Thanks to consistent nation-wide vaccination, Australia is no longer plagued by many diseases that used to kill thousands of children every year. Keep your kids safe and make sure they receive the required vaccinations.

What vaccinations do kids need in Australia?

The list of required vaccinations below comes from the National Immunisation Program Schedule under the Australian government’s Immunise Australia Program and are current at time of writing (August 2015):

Age Vaccine
Birth Hepatitis B (hepB)
2 months Compound vaccine hepB-DTPa-Hib-IPV for:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Acellular pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B
  • Inactivated poliomyelitis (polio)

Pneumococcal conjugate (13vPCV)

Rotavirus

4 months Compound vaccine hepB-DTPa-Hib-IPV for:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Acellular pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B
  • Inactivated poliomyelitis (polio)

Pneumococcal conjugate (13vPCV)

Rotavirus

6 months Compound vaccine hepB-DTPa-Hib-IPV for:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Acellular pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type B
  • Inactivated poliomyelitis (polio)

Pneumococcal conjugate (13vPCV)

Rotavirus B

Influenza (flu) (6 months – 5 years)*

Influenza (flu) (6 months and up)**

12 months Haemophilus influenzae type B and meningococcal C (Hib-MenC)

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

Pneumococcal conjugate (13vPCV) (12-18 months)*

Hepatitis A (12-24 months)*

Pneumococcal conjugate (13vPCV) (12 months)**

18 months Measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox) (MMRV)
4 years Compound DTPa-IPV for:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Acellular pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Inactivated poliomyelitis (polio)

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (to be given only if MMR vaccine was not given at 18 months)

Pneumococcal polysaccharide (23vPPV)**

10 – 16 years (depending on your State Health Dep.) Varicella C (chickenpox)

Human papillomavirus (HPV / Gardasil) (protects against cervical cancer)

Compound dTpa for:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Acellular pertussis (whooping cough)

Influenza (flu) (15 years)*

Pneumococcal polysaccharide (23vPPV) (15 years)*

* These vaccinations are specifically recommended for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in high-risk areas.
** These vaccinations are specifically recommended for children with a serious medical condition or other medically at-risk children.

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Are vaccinations safe?

Modern vaccines are extremely safe, and they do not contain any toxic ingredients. Serious reactions to them are very rare. Vaccines occasionally produce undesirable side-effects including pain and redness at the injection site, but these reactions are mild and go away quickly.

Vaccines do not contain the entire disease, so they do not weaken the immune system, but rather strengthen it by stimulating new forms of defensive antibodies. Vaccines that are intended to be given at the same time as other vaccinations, are tested heavily to ensure that the combination is safe for a person’s immune system.

Vaccines are now tested with thousands of people in strictly-monitored and safe clinical trials, and these trials get larger every year. Vaccines can take up to 10 years to be approved; vaccines registered by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) must have a proven safe record and be manufactured and packaged according to strict safety guidelines.

Even once a vaccine is introduced to the public, further clinical trials continue to be done. Australia also has a nation-wide reporting system for adverse events following immunisation. This means any reactions to the vaccine are immediately referred for further safety testing and review by the TGA and the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Vaccines (ACSOV).

Vaccines that use virus proteins grown inside other materials, such as eggs, are even more closely monitored to ensure that the other material does not trigger any allergies. For example, the vaccines for influenza, yellow fever, Q fever, and one type of rabies, are grown in eggs but the amount is so low that they can be given to people with a known egg allergy.

We recommend every parent read the Australian government’s regularly-updated Myths and Realities publication, which counters many of the “vaccination myths” that doctors regularly hear. It covers many more myths than we can address here. And of course discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.

You can find more information about the safety of vaccines here:

Why should you immunise your kids?

Because it protects everyone, not just your own children.

Immunisation protects individuals if they come into contact with a disease, but it also protects the rest of the community by stopping the disease from spreading. Vaccinating a child at a young age reduces the risk that they will pass on deadly disease particles to another child or a baby who hasn’t been vaccinated yet.

Parents in Australia have a legal right to register as “conscientious objectors” and refuse to have their child vaccinated. However, every parent owes a responsibility to keep all of our community’s children safe.

What’s more, you can lose your family benefits if you refuse to vaccinate your kids. The Senate recently passed the No Jab, No Pay Bill, and from 1 January 2016, parents will need to ensure their child’s immunisations are up-to-date to continue receiving Child Care Benefit, Child Care Rebate and an FTB-A payment.

“This is an important win for families, for community health and, most importantly, for the safety of our children,” Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter said when announcing the passage of the legislation.

“Diseases, like polio, tetanus and diphtheria pose a serious threat. Immunisation is the safest and most effective way to protect our children from them.”

‘Vaccination objections’ on the basis of personal or philosophical beliefs will no longer be a valid immunisation exemption for these payments. It remains the case that parents still have the right not to vaccinate their child. However, the no jab, no pay policy recognises the fact that rationales for a family’s choice not to immunise their children are not supported by public policy or medical research. Exemptions will still apply for children who have a natural immunity or allergies to specific medicines, if diagnosed by
a general practitioner.

That’s a high price to pay to avoid a needle. This measure acknowledges that there is a huge cost to the community and other children when some children are not vaccinated.

Parents may reject vaccination because they fear an adverse reaction, because they do not understand how safe vaccines are, or because they prefer untested homeopathic immunisation methods over modern vaccines. Some mothers even think that breastfeeding will provide their infant with sufficient antibodies to replace a vaccine. Each of these reasons and many more are countered easily and scientifically in the government’s Myths and Realities publication.

As for religious objections to vaccination, these are increasingly rare. Even Islamic and Jewish leaders agree that gelatin-containing vaccines are so re-processed and so far removed from the original pork product that they are completely safe for faithful observers to use.

The majority of Australians are supportive of vaccination, and over 92% of children aged 2 years old have received all of the vaccinations required for their age. Only 39,000 families have registered their children as being unvaccinated.

Diseases we have conquered in Australia thanks to nation-wide vaccination

If enough people in a community are immunised against a disease, the infection can no longer be spread from person to person and the disease can die out altogether in a country.

Thanks to nation-wide vaccinations introduced in major campaigns during the 1960s and ’70s, deaths from common diseases are extremely rare in Australia. We have conquered or nearly conquered many diseases in Australia that used to kill thousands of young children every year.

  1. Tetanus
  2. Diphtheria
  3. Whooping cough
  4. Smallpox (declared eradicated in 1980 after World Health Organisation campaign)
  5. Measles (declared eradicated in Australia in 2014)

It’s important to note though that everyone still needs to be immunised against these diseases – after all, what if your children wish to travel overseas when they are older? For example, it is vital for every person have two doses of high levels of the measles vaccine, as travellers to Australia frequently bring cases of measles into our country. The NCIRS has an interactive tool to help you decide whether to immunise your child for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).

Did you know? Vaccinations for other at risk groups

Certain vaccinations for pregnant women and the elderly are also recommended under the National Immunisation Program Schedule.

Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy are advised to get the flu vaccine.

People aged 65 years and older are advised to get the flu vaccine and the pneumococcal polysaccharide (23vPPV) vaccine. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the age that this vaccination is recommended drops to 50 years because of a different level of medical risk.

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