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7 facts about childhood immunisations that every parent needs to know.

Australian Government - Department Of Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Australian Government - Department Of Health

It’s heart wrenching to read about families that have lost their children to diseases like measles, whooping cough or chicken pox.

While Australia’s immunisation rates for five year olds are close to the government’s target of 95 per cent, children aged between one and two have a lower immunisation rate, with some areas as low as 79 per cent.

This puts little kids, as well as the rest of the community, at greater risk of developing very serious diseases, some of which are fatal.

Before vaccinations were really pushed in the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Australian children used to die from diseases like whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus.

While it’s extremely rare to die from these diseases today in Australia, it’s important to remember that this is because of our high vaccination rates.

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) Schedule makes it easy to know exactly when to get what immunisations for your child. Missing those dates can compromise your child’s health, so it’s important to get the facts. And from a trusted source with evidence-based information, such as the Australian Department of Health’s Get The Facts website.

So, let’s talk facts. Here are the seven must-know things that we as parents need to store in our brains, to protect our kids and set our minds at ease.

Fact: Vaccination protects your children, as well as other children.

Babies can’t be immunised until they are at least six weeks old, so must rely on the protection from the community.

However, without high vaccination rates, diseases like measles can spread more easily in the wider community, putting young children at risk of infection.

When you vaccinate your child, you’re helping to protect the community that you live in. Newborn babies are especially at risk, as they’re too young to be immunised.

Fact: Timing of vaccinations is important.

There’s a good reason that your child’s vaccination schedule is set out the way it is. Expert research has gone into working out the ideal time for a child to receive each of their shots in order to ensure the best protection.

Things like their age and how likely they are to be exposed to the disease at different ages play a role in how the vaccination schedule is set up.

Parents need to ensure that their child’s immunisations occur on time, every time, as even a few weeks can put them and other vulnerable people at risk of disease.

You can download a free app for your phone, which will remind you when your child’s vaccinations are due or just set a reminder to book your child’s next immunisation appointment.

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If you’re worried that you may have missed a vaccination for your child, you can check their immunisation record by using your Medicare online account through the myGov website or speak to your immunisation provider.

Vaccinations on the childhood schedule are free, even if you need to arrange to catch-up on your child’s missed immunisations.

Fact: The diseases children are vaccinated against are still around.

You might think that in Australia we don’t need to be worried about diseases like measles anymore. Even though rates are low in Australia, there are still countries close by where measles rates are high (in Samoa last year, 83 people died and thousands fell sick).

Polio is very rare in Australia, but this is because of the high levels of vaccination. We keep up the polio vaccine so that the disease doesn’t become common again.

Vaccination protects everyone from these diseases.

childhood immunisation schedule australia
Keeping on top of the schedule is one of the most important things we can do as parents. Image: Getty.

Fact: It is safe to give a child more than one vaccine at a time.

Thorough research has shown that giving children several vaccines at the same time is safe.

Some parents may worry that infants receive too many vaccines, and that giving multiple vaccines at the same time might ‘overwhelm’ the child’s immune system. But infants’ immune systems are very strong.

When babies are born, they encounter many thousands of different types of antigens (parts of organisms that cause disease, such as bacteria or viruses). Vaccines contain only a very small number of antigens compared with the large number that children encounter every day in their environment.

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Vaccines will actually strengthen your baby’s immunity to protect them from some of the most dangerous infectious diseases.

Fact: If enough people get immunised, we can try to eradicate the disease from Australia.

When the World Health Organisation pushed the smallpox vaccine in 1980, the disease died out.

Without high vaccination rates, our communities, including children and other vulnerable people, are at greater risk of these diseases.

This is why "community (herd) immunity" is so important.

At present, Australian children are being vaccinated against more diseases than ever before. This gives parents peace of mind that they’re doing everything that they can to protect their family’s health.

Fact: Vaccines are scientifically proven to be safe and effective.

Immunisation saves lives. They’re proven to be safe and are continually tested to ensure they are effective.

All vaccines used in Australia are thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness. In development they are rigorously tested on thousands of people in progressively larger trials.

Following this, if found to be safe and effective, the vaccine can be registered for use with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The approval process can take up to 10 years and sometimes even longer.

Fact: You can make the vaccination visit more comfortable for you and your child.

There are ways to make the visit to the GP or health nurse more comfortable for you and your child.

• Make the appointment at a time of day that your child is the most content. For many under fives, this is first thing in the morning.
• Always explain to your children that they are going to have a needle and that it might hurt for a minute. Let them know that the needle can help reduce their chances of getting very sick.
• Have a sticker, a toy, or a snack at the ready, to keep their mind occupied during your appointment.
• If you have time, schedule something nice after the visit such as a trip to the library or café.
• Your child may experience mild side effects but serious reactions to immunisation are rare - most reactions are mild and go away quickly. Ask your immunisation provider if paracetamol is appropriate or if you have any concerns.

For more information, visit the Australian Department of Health's immunisation facts website.

Feature image: Getty.

Australian Government - Department Of Health

Nearly 95% of Aussie kids are fully vaccinated, but as parents we need to do more to protect all our kids from serious diseases. If you miss one vaccine or are just a few weeks late, your child and those around them are at risk of serious diseases. The Australian Government's 'Get the Facts' campaign gives you credible, evidence-based facts about immunisation. Find out more at immunisationfacts.gov.au

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