Immunisation and vaccinations for your child
If you have a severe headache during pregnancy that is not usual for you, seek medical help immediately.
- Immunisation protects children (and adults) against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.
- Your baby or child can get many vaccines for free under the Department of Health and Aged Care's National Immunisation Program.
- New vaccines against serious illnesses continue to be developed, so your child may receive more vaccines than you did as a child.
- Your child can be vaccinated at your doctor’s clinic, an immunisation clinic, your local council by community child health nurses, and at some hospitals.
- Most vaccine side effects are minor, and the risk of a serious side effect from a vaccine is far lower than the health risks of the disease itself.
How does immunisation work?
Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way to protect children against certain diseases. The serious health risks of these diseases are far greater than the very small risks of immunisation.
Immunisation protects children (and adults) against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.
It uses your body’s natural defence mechanism — your immune system — to build resistance to specific infections. Most vaccines contain a weakened or dead version of the germ that causes the disease. Your immune system responds to the vaccine and creates antibodies that prevent a future infection.
What is the difference between vaccination and immunisation?
Vaccination is the term used for getting a vaccine — that is, getting the injection or taking an oral vaccine dose. Immunisation refers to the process of both getting the vaccine and becoming immune to the disease after vaccination.
Learn more about the difference between vaccination and immunisation.
Which vaccines are recommended for children in Australia?
Your baby or child can get many vaccines for free under the Department of Health and Aged Care's National Immunisation Program.
In Australia, babies and children are immunised against the following diseases:
- Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib)
- hepatitis B
- meningococcal disease
- pneumococcal infection
- polio (poliomyelitis)
- whooping cough (pertussis)
The hepatitis A vaccine is free for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children living in high-risk areas. These areas include Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.
Children aged 6 months to 5 years can have the flu vaccine for free each year.
Children aged 12 to 13 years can have the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) through their schools.
Children aged 5 years and older should receive a vaccine against COVID-19. You can visit the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care for information, booking appointments and safety advice.
Most vaccines are given by injection. Some combine several vaccines in the one injection. The National Immunisation Program Schedule is available at the Department of Health and Aged Care’s website.
Why do children need so many vaccinations?
Young children need vaccinations to protect them against some of the most serious childhood infectious diseases.
Your child will need several vaccinations because new vaccines against serious infections continue to be developed.
In some cases, several vaccines are combined into one injection. This reduces the number of injections your child will get.
For a full list of recommended vaccinations for children, visit:
- National Immunisation Program schedule
- National Immunisation Program schedule for all Indigenous people
Where can I have my child vaccinated?
You can get your child vaccinated at:
- your doctor
- immunisation clinics
- local councils
- community child health nurses
- some hospitals
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Do vaccination needles hurt?
Although needles are given quickly, getting vaccinations can be painful for your child. The best way you can make it as painless as possible is to hold your child and soothe and comfort them. Breastfeeding can also help reduce pain, and there are other techniques to help reduce your child’s pain.
What are the side effects of vaccinations?
Many children get minor side effects such as:
- redness, soreness or swelling where the needle went in
- mild fever
- being irritable or unsettled
Side effects tend to be short-lasting.
If your child has any of these side effects:
- Give them extra fluids to drink.
- Don’t overdress them if they feel hot.
- Ask your health provider about giving them paracetamol to help with fever or soreness.
For young children about to receive their meningococcal B vaccination, you can give them the recommended dose of paracetamol before immunisation. This can help reduce the chance of your child developing a fever. Talk to your doctor or child health nurse before your appointment about how to do this.
Serious reactions to vaccinations are very rare. However, if they do occur, take your child to the doctor immediately.
If your child has had a reaction to a vaccine, you can also report it non-urgently to:
- the National Prescribing Service Medicinewise hotline (1300 134 237), or
- online to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
What is the Australian Immunisation Register?
A record of your child’s immunisation history is kept by the Australian Immunisation Register, which is run by Medicare Australia.
It gives you and health professionals many benefits, such as:
- the option of getting a copy of your child’s immunisation details at any time
- documents to help with eligibility for some family payments
- the ability to track immunisation levels in Australia to assist health professionals to track disease outbreaks
- an immunisation history statement when you need it
You can get your child’s immunisation history statement:
- by calling the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809
- through your Medicare online account on myGov
What is ‘no jab, no pay’?
To receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A and Child Care Subsidy, your child needs to be up-to-date with their immunisation schedule or have a medical exemption if they are unable to be vaccinated.
Find out more at the Services Australia website.
Resources and support
Visit the National Immunisation Information Line or call: 1800 671 811
Call the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 or visit the website at Services Australia.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: September 2022