01.Immunisations for newborns and infants
The immunisation process protects children and adults against harmful infections that circulate in our communities before you come into contact with them. By exposing your body to a small amount of a specific infection through immunisation, your immune system responds - as it should - by building a response which will protect your body should you ever be exposed to that infection again in the future.
Almost all Australian adults who have grown up in this country were vaccinated as children, and as a consequence, many of the illnesses that struck down children 100 years ago are now a rarity. There are nine diseases that are preventable by childhood immunisation. All of these can cause serious complications that can potentially result in death. They are:
- whooping cough
- poliomyelitis (polio)
- Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib)
- hepatitis B
The Medicare immunisation schedule explains the various vaccinations your child will have, which include:
- Birth - hepatitis B
- 2 months - Hib, polio, pneumococcal, rotavirus and DTPa (sometimes combined with hepatitis B)
- 4 months - DPTa, hib, polio pneumococcal, rotavirus
- 6 months - DPTa, hib, polio pneumococcal, rotavirus (this dose depends which brand was used)
- 12 months - Measles, mumps and rubella, hib (sometimes combined with hepatitis B), meningococcal C
- 18 months - Varicella (chickenpox) and pneumococcal
Why so many immunisations?
Babies require small doses of vaccine, which require boosters to remain effective.
While it has been argued that improved living standards and sanitation have reduced the incidence of infectious diseases, vaccination has also had a clear and significant impact. Measles and pertussis (whooping cough), for instance, are spread by coughing and sneezing, and the attack rates are almost 100 per cent, no matter what the standards of hygiene are. All the vaccine-preventable diseases have shown dramatic reductions in incidence after the introduction of vaccination.
Why should I have my child immunised?
- By immunising your child, you are offering him or her the safest and most effective form of protection against many serious diseases. After immunisation, your child has protection against many diseases that can still circulate in the community - the benefit of this protection far outweighs the rare complications associated with immunisation.
- The infection can be taken out of the community if enough people are immunised. Without carriers to spread these diseases, it is possible to eradicate serious diseases entirely - this is how smallpox was eradicated.
The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) automatically records the details of every vaccination given to your child while under the age of seven and living in Australia.
The ACIR provides:
- An immunisation history statement when your child turns one, two and five years of age.
- Documents to help with eligibility for some family payments.
- The option of getting a copy of your child's immunisation details at any time.
For more information about the Immunisation Register, go to Medicare Australia.
The immunisation schedule
As all states vary slightly in the timing of their immunisation schedule, you can find the relevant information to your area at Immunise Australia Program.
Immunisation and family payments
In Australia, the government requires your child to be up to date with immunisation for a family to be eligible to receive Family Tax Part A supplement, the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate - see the Department of Human Services' information on Immunising Your Children.
You can be exempted from immunisation if:
- Your child can't be immunised because of a medical condition - in this case, your GP will need to fill out a Medical Contra-indication form.
- Your child has a natural immunity to a disease, or a vaccine is unavailable - ask your GP to provide you with a letter explaining your specific situation.
- You have a personal, philosophical, or religious objection to immunisation - in this case, your GP should provide you with a Conscientious Objection form.
The ACIR will provide the relevant information. If you aren't up to date with your child's immunisation, to receive the payments, you will either be required to arrange for a catch-up program or apply for an exemption.
This article was originally written by Ella Walsh and updated by Choice in May 2013. Sourced with permission from kidspot.com.au.