Immunisations help control vaccine-preventable diseases in Australia.

Vaccinations are designed to help initiate the body’s natural defence mechanisms to identify and protect itself from potentially deadly diseases.

In South Australia, the Childhood Immunisation Program forms part of the National Immunisation Program which provides free vaccines to all children registered with Medicare.

The vaccines aim to fully immunise all children in South Australia by the age of four against a range of serious and highly communicable diseases.

They are free for eligible people from their doctor, community health centres and local council immunisation clinics although some professional providers may charge a fee.

Under Commonwealth and state legislation, children cannot enrol in or attend early childhood services including school unless all immunisation requirements have been met and an ‘Immunisation History Statement’ provided.

This may be downloaded from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).

Children may still be added to this register even without a Medicare card.

In rare cases, there are exemptions that may apply for conditions such as medical contraindications to a particular vaccine or if a child has been vaccinated overseas.

South Australia’s childhood vaccination is downloadable but the most important immunisations for Australian children are:

Hepatitis B

This is given within seven days of birth and ideally within the first 24 hours.

Minor side effects are possible but normally very mild and not usually lasting more than a couple of days.

Hepatitis B attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic infection, leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

It has been preventable by vaccine since 1982 and has a disease prevention rate of close to 100 per cent.

Children receive further Hep B boosters as part of a combination vaccine. 

DTPa-hepB-IPV-Hib

This is one of the most important immunisations on the schedule.

It is a significant combination vaccine given at six weeks, four months and six months of age.

Combination vaccines allow babies to be protected as quickly as possible after birth.

This combination vaccine is for six common infectious diseases that babies are all vulnerable to and include:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Acellular pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Hepatitis B (booster)
  • Inactivated poliovirus
  • Haemophilus influenzae Type B

A separate diphtheria shot is given again at 18 months, four years and to year 7 students.

The polio shot is also given again at four years.

Pneumococcal disease

Identified as 13vPCV on the immunisation schedule, this is given at six weeks, four months and 12 months.

Pneumococcal disease can trigger severe problems such as meningitis, pneumonia, bacteraemia and sepsis.

Infants and the elderly are most susceptible to the disease.

The vaccine was developed in the 1980s and now prevents up to 93% of severe cases.

Rotavirus

The rotavirus vaccine is given at six weeks and four months.

There are nine species of rotavirus.

They are highly contagious, cannot be treated by drugs and are the most common cause of diarrhoea in children.

Vaccinations have significantly reduced hospitalisations caused by the disease.

Meningococcal B

This is given at six weeks, four months and 12 months with a booster recommended for Year 10 students.

Meningococcal disease is most commonly caused by one of five types – A, B, C, W and Y.

It causes meningitis and sepsis and potentially severe scarring and loss of limbs.

If left untreated, it has a high mortality rate but fortunately is preventable by vaccine.

Different vaccines protect against different types of the disease.

The quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine 4vMenCV protects against types A, C, W and Y and is given at 12 months.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella

The Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine is given at 12 months and again at 18 months.

The 18-month vaccination is called MMRV and includes chickenpox (varicella).

These four childhood diseases have largely been eradicated in Australia thanks to this vaccine.

Many of today’s adults had one of more of these diseases as children.

And while many people don’t consider these diseases serious, even something of a ‘right of passage’ of growing up, the reality is that they can cause very serious complications and are far from desirable.

There are some people with impaired immunity who these vaccines are not suitable for so talk to your doctor if you are unsure.

Pregnant women should also not be vaccinated with MMR and pregnancy should also be avoided within 28 days of vaccination.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

This is the virus that is responsible for genital warts and cervical cancer and is given to all children in Year 7 or 8.

There are over 200 strains of HPV virus and it can affect both sexes.

While not part of the compulsory childhood vaccination schedule, it is considered an important and responsible vaccination to take in the fight against a deadly disease.

Book an appointment

The immunisations on the compulsory childhood schedule are designed to eradicate some of the most dangerous and preventable diseases.

With all vaccines, there comes the potential for minor side effects which are generally easily managed with mild painkillers.

Depending on a child’s medical history, there may be other considerations.

Indigenous and Torrens Strait Islander children have a slightly different disease susceptibility profile and hence their are minor differences to their vaccine schedule.

It is important to build a relationship with a doctor who can support the needs of you and your family.

Your child will also benefit from becoming comfortable with your doctor and clinic.

GPs at AHA Clinics are highly experienced at working with children.

Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.