Treatments & procedures

Childhood vaccination: The facts

What you need to do to keep your child on track with the vaccination schedule, and the truth about vaccination side effects.

Lisa Herron
July 2017

Australia’s national immunisation program provides vaccinations against 16 diseases. These include serious diseases that in the past caused many deaths, such as measles, diphtheria and whooping cough, and newer vaccines, against the Human Papillomavirus (which can lead to diseases of the genital area, including cervical cancer) and meningococcal C.

Vaccination uptake in Australia is high – just over 93% of 5-year-olds are fully covered. But that means 7 out of every 100 Australian children are not.

What vaccine does my child need and when?

Vaccinations are critical for the health of children and the wider community – here’s a summary of the vaccinations your child needs to be protected.

The Department of Health lists the full vaccination schedule, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and at risk groups, including pregnant women and people over 65.

  • Hepatitis B
2, 4 & 6 months
  • Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Haemophilus influenzae type b, inactivated polio
  • Pneumococcal vaccine
  • Rotavirus (2 and 4 months only), Rotavirus b (6 months only
12 months
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b and meningococcal C
  • Measles, mumps and rubella
18 months
  • Diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough
  • Measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox
4 years
  • Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and inactivated polio
10–15 years (contact your State or Territory Health Department for details)
  • Chickenpox
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and whopping cough


How vaccinations work

  • Vaccination is the only protection against serious infectious diseases like measles, whooping cough and diphtheria. Vaccines provoke your body’s immune system to build defenses against these infections, so it can eliminate the disease before it takes hold.

  • Vaccination has prevented illness and death in millions of children. It’s understood that immunisation programs prevent 2 – 3 million deaths every year worldwide. An additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves.

  • No medicine, including vaccines, can be considered 100% safe. However, all vaccines currently available in Australia must pass stringent safety testing. Once they’re in use, they’re monitored and any ‘adverse events’ following immunisation are reported and reviewed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

  • Almost all side effects of vaccines are mild and resolve quickly. The most common are fever and pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.

  • Serious side effects are extremely rare. For example, anaphylaxis (potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) occurs in about 1 in 1 million people.

  • Vaccination does not cause autism, SIDS (cot death), allergies or asthma. Autism Awareness Australia says there is simply no scientific evidence to support a link between any vaccine and autism.

  • There is no pre-vaccination test to determine if a child might ‘react’ to a vaccine. The doctor or nurse usually does a general medical check, to make sure the child is in good health before administering a vaccine.

Read more about common concerns around immunisation.

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