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Immunisation is a simple and effective way of protecting children and adults against certain diseases. It not only protects individuals who have the immunisation, but also others in our community, by increasing the level of immunity and minimising the spread of disease. Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism – the immune response – to build resistance to infectious diseases.
Immunisation helps people stay healthy by preventing many serious infections.
Young children, particularly babies, do not have the well-developed immune system that older children and adults have. Most vaccinations need to be given several times to build long lasting protection – this is why it is important for children to complete the full recommended schedule of vaccinations at the recommended times.
- See Vaccines (SA Health website) for more information.
Sometimes it is possible to ‘catch up’ if the vaccinations are not given on time.
However, some immunisations like the rotavirus vaccine cannot be given later than the recommended time.
Not getting the full course of vaccinations can leave a child unprotected and still at risk of getting the disease.
Although many diseases are not as common as they were in the past, particularly in countries like Australia, it is still vitally important for children and adults to be vaccinated to help ensure we do not experience serious disease outbreaks.
Special vaccination requirements
Some people have special vaccination requirements. If you identify with any of the following, you should talk to your doctor before being vaccinated. If you:
- are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy
- see the SA Health brochure Immunisation and Pregnancy (PDF - 134kb)
- have previously had a serious adverse event following immunisation, or
- have impaired immunity due to disease or treatment.
The Australian Academy of Science has released a publication that provides in depth information about immunisation called 'The Science of Immunisation: questions and answers' (November 2012).
This publication aims to address confusion created by contradictory information in the public domain. It sets out to explain the current situation in immunisation science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist.
The Immunise Australia program has released a publication for providers addressing myths and realities which provides more information if parents have more worries about the safety of immunisation. It is probably best to discuss the information in this publication with your doctor as it is not written specifically for parents
There are topics on this site about each of the illnesses that immunisation helps to prevent. See Related topics on the side bar of this topic.
Where can I have my child immunised?
Immunisations can be provided by your doctor, immunisation clinics, local councils, community child health nurses and by some hospitals.
The Immunisation Calculator uses the Australian Standard Vaccination Schedule. It recommends doses of vaccine to be given at specific ages. If doses of vaccine are delayed or missed, the calculator will assist in providing a 'catch-up' schedule for future vaccine doses. Click on the image to go to the calculator.
Vaccines, like any medication can have side effects. Most vaccines can cause mild reactions. If the reaction seems severe or persists and you are concerned, contact your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section.
If the child becomes obviously unwell it is probable that the child has a different health problem (eg. a cold or other viral infection), and it may be wise to have the child checked by a doctor.
Reactions do not usually last for more than 48 hours, and the following may help to relieve symptoms.
- Place a cold cloth on the injection site if it is red or swollen (do not place ice directly onto the skin).
- If the child has a fever or seems in pain, some paracetamol or ibuprofen may help.
- If the child is not eating as much as usual, offer some extra drinks (breast milk, formula or water).
- Many children need extra cuddling and comforting for a day or so.
is the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR)?
The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (the Immunisation Register) is a national immunisation register that records details of vaccinations given to children under seven years of age who live in Australia. When your child is vaccinated, your doctor or immunisation nurse sends the vaccination information to the Immunisation Register.
If you have misplaced your child's vaccination details, you can contact the Immunisation Register and request a copy.
and family payments
- Your child has to be up-to-date with immunisations, or have an exemption, so that your family can receive payments such as the Child Care Benefit .
Immunisation before, during and after pregnancy
Some immunisations, including rubella immunisation, help protect an unborn baby if the mother has the immunisations before she becomes pregnant. For more information have a look at the pamphlet Immunisation and pregnancy (PDF - 134kb).
Further information is available on the SA Health website:
If you want more information about immunisation, go to the 'Immunise Australia Program' website of the Commonwealth Department of Health. This site also has the Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition (2013).
Information in languages other than English
Fact Sheets (in many languages), Victorian Government:
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.