Vaccinations for your baby (0-5 years)

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Vaccinations protect babies against many diseases while their immune systems are still developing. They are a simple, safe and effective way of preventing many serious childhood illnesses.

This article discusses what you need to know about vaccinating your child up until the age of 5 years. For information beyond that age, see Childhood (>5 years) Vaccination.

 

How childhood vaccinations have made the world a better place

There is a plethora of misleading online information about vaccinations. Unfortunately, they muddle the fact that vaccinations have been one of the most important and successful public health interventions in history.

Since the introduction of vaccinations in 1932 for children in Australia, there has been a 99% deduction in deaths caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. Globally, immunisation currently prevents 2-3 million deaths every year.

 

When should my young child be vaccinated, and against which diseases?

This table represents the National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule, showing which vaccines are provided for free and when they should be given.

Age Disease immunised against Vaccine(s)*
Birth
  • Hepatitis B
  • hepB
2 months
(can be given from 6 weeks of age)
  • Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), haemophilus influenza type b, polio
  • Pneumococcal
  • Rotavirus
  • hepB-DTPa-Hib-IPV
  • 13vPCV
  • rotavirus
4 months
  • Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), haemophilus influenza type b, polio
  • Pneumococcal
  • Rotavirus
  • hepB-DTPa-Hib-IPV
  • 13vPCV
  • rotavirus
6 months
  • Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), haemophilus influenza type b, polio
  • Pneumococcal
  • hepB-DTPa-Hib-IPV
  • 13vPCV
12 months
  • Haemophilus influenza type b
  • Meningococcal A, C, W and Y strains, tetanus toxoid
  • Measles, mumps, rubella
  • Hib
  • MenACWY – tetanus toxoid (Ninmenrix)
  • MMR
18 months
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio
  • Measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox (varicella)
  • DTPa-IPV
  • MMRV
4 years
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio
  • DTPa-IPV

*Vaccines exist in different combinations; therefore, this list may not be representative of vaccine availability. The important thing to consider is that all of the vaccine-preventable diseases are covered for each age bracket.

 

Other considerations:  Preterm babies

Healthy preterm babies can be safely vaccinated at the same time as term babies (i.e. without correction for prematurity). Despite the immaturity of their immune system, evidence shows that healthy preterm babies respond well to full vaccine doses.

Sick and very low birth weight preterm infants can have a reduced response to some vaccines, and it may be necessary for your doctor to organise a modified schedule.  

 

Other considerations: Breastfeeding

Vaccines are almost always safe for breastfeeding women to have.

Yellow fever vaccine should be avoided for breastfeeding women when possible. But in situations where the risk of catching yellow fever is high, you and your doctor may wish to consider it.

The rubella virus vaccine has the potential to be secreted in human breast milk, and there have been reported cases of transmission from mothers to breastfed infants. However, in cases where infection has occurred, the symptoms have either been mild or absent.

The baby’s immune response to most vaccines in relation to breastfeeding has been studied, and in general, breastfeeding does not negatively affect any of the vaccinations recommended in infants.

 

Other considerations:  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

This table lists additional vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies living in high risk areas of QLD, NT, QA and SA that are covered by the National Immunisation Program.

Age Disease immunised against Vaccine(s)
12 months
  • Hepatitis A
  • Vaqta Paediatric
12–18 months
  • Pneumococcal
  • Prevenar 13
18 months
  • Hepatitis A
  • Vaqta Paediatric

 

Other considerations: Additional pneumococcal vaccinations

If your child is medically at risk, then it is recommended that they receive additional pneumococcal vaccines at 12 months and 4 years of age. You should check with your health care provider, as this can apply to many medical conditions.

 

Other considerations:  Influenza vaccinations

It is recommended under the NIP that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies and preterm babies (<37 weeks) with underlying conditions (such as chronic lung disease, heart disease and neurological conditions) receive an influenza (flu) vaccine annually, starting from 6 months of age.

 

Other considerations:  Meningococcal vaccinations

The NIP includes a vaccine (MenACWY) that protects against four of the five strains of meningococcal disease – strains A, C, W and Y. Previously (2018 and earlier), only the meningococcal C strain was covered. The MenACWY vaccine is now free for 12-month-old children as per the Schedule. Other age groups are not currently covered by the NIP. However, some States and Territories have their own immunisation programs which may cover the cost of the MenACWY vaccine. For example, the Western Australian state government offers free MenACWY vaccines for children aged 12 months to less than 5 years, and for children aged 15-19 years.

It is highly advised that you talk with your doctor about the benefits of your young child having a meningococcal B vaccine (MenBV). Currently, the NIP does not cover the meningococcal B strain. MenBV is particularly recommended for children younger than 2 years of age due to their higher risk of this type of meningococcal disease. The number of doses required will vary depending on the age of your child.

 

Other considerations:  International travel

In some cases, certain vaccines are recommended for your child if international travel is planned. You should visit a travel health clinic 6-12 weeks before travelling.

 

What are the risks of vaccinating my baby?

To explore the general risks of vaccines, see An Introduction to Vaccines.

 

Why is the National Immunisation Program the way it is?

Many years of thorough and rigorous research have gone into working out the right time to give each vaccine. Factors which have been carefully considered include:

  • Which diseases Australian children are likely to be exposed to;
  • How serious the disease can be;
  • How diseases affect children of different ages differently; and
  • The number of doses required.

 

How do I check if my child is up to date?

The Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) records vaccinations for people of all ages in Australia. If you are enrolled in Medicare, you don’t need to do anything to get on the AIR; you and your child will automatically be on it. If you are not enrolled in Medicare, you will be put on the AIR providing that your health care specialist sends the appropriate vaccination details to the register. The AIR can be contacted if you wish to obtain your child’s records on 1800 653 809.

Parents should also be given a personal health record book for their baby that includes a section for recording vaccinations. Each state has their own nickname for this book (e.g. in NSW it is referred to as the ‘blue book’, and in QLD the ‘red book’). It is highly recommended that you store this book safely and securely, and that you ask the doctor to add updates after each vaccination.

 

Vaccination requirements for childcare and certain benefits (as of 1 Jan 2018)

NSW and Victoria require that children be fully immunised before attending various childcare services (such as long daycare, kindergarten, family daycare and occasional care). The two exceptions are if the child is on a vaccination catch-up program, or if the child has a specified medical reason not to be vaccinated. In Queensland, childcare services have the right to refuse children who are not fully immunised. In all states, if an outbreak occurs, unimmunised children may be excluded from school or childcare for a period of time.

Nationally, as a requirement for parents to receive certain benefits such as the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement, and the Childcare Benefit and Rebate, children need to be fully immunised for their age.

 

Resources

checklist_hand_300x200 Download the Standard Vaccination Checklist (Children 0-5 Years of Age) in a printable pdf format.

 

More information

For more information about vaccinations in pregnancy and in children in Australia, see Vaccinations.

 

References

  1. Immunisation for children [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  2. Embrace the facts about vaccines, not the myths [online]. World Health Organization; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  3. Immunisation [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2018 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  4. 10 facts on immunization [online]. World Health Organization; 2018 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  5. National Immunisation Program Schedule [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  6. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Influenza: Recommendations [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  7. Why is the schedule the way it is? fact sheet [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  8. Australian Immunisation Register [online]. Australian Government Department of Human Services; 2018 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  9. No Jab No Play, No Jab No Pay Policies [online]. National Centre for Immunisation Research Surveillance; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  10. Immunisation for travel [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  11. Health professionals contact information [online]. Australian Government Department of Human Services; 2018 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  12. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Meningococcal disease [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  13. Blue book [online]. NSW Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  14. Personal health record (red book) [online]. Children’s Health Queensland; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  15. Immunisation of preterm infants [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 1998 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  16. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Groups with special vaccination requirements: Vaccination of women who are planning pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding, and preterm infants [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  17. Losonsky GA, Fishaut JM, Strussenberg J, Ogra PL. Effect of immunization against rubella on lactation products. II. Maternal-neonatal interactions. J Infect Dis. 1982;145(5):661-6. [Abstract]
  18. Minister for Health The Hon. Greg Hunt MP. Quad-strain meningococcal vaccine to be added to National Immunisation Program [online]. Commonwealth of Australia; 2018 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  19. Catch-up immunisations [online]. Australian Government Department of Health; 2017 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]
  20. Meningococcal ACWY vaccine [online]. Government of Western Australia Department of Health; 2018 [cited 31 May 2018]. Available from: [URL link]

 

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Date Created: May 31, 2018 Date Modified: June 7, 2018