Immunisation FAQs

Are immunisations necessary in these days of good hospital care, good hygiene and clean water supplies?

Are there any reasons for delaying immunisation?

Can immunisations overload the immune system?

Do some children get the disease despite being immunised?

Isn't natural immunity better than vaccine-induced immunity?

Should children be immunised while their mother is pregnant?


Can more than one immunisation be given at the same time?

What if my child has a chronic disease?

What if my child has allergies or has asthma?

What if my child is due to have an operation?

Where should immunisations be recorded?

Question: Are immunisations necessary in these days of good hospital care, good hygiene and clean water supplies?

Answer: Yes. Many diseases prevented by immunisation are spread directly from person to person so good food, water and hygiene do not stop infection.

Despite excellent hospital care, significant illness and death still occur from diseases that can be prevented by immunisation. Since Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccines were first available in Australia in 1993, cases of the disease in children under five years of age have declined dramatically with no change in living standards.

Question:  Are there any reasons for delaying immunisation?

Answer: There are very few medical reasons for delaying immunisation. If a child is sick with a high temperature (over 38.5°C) then immunisation should be postponed until the child has recovered.

A child who has a runny nose, but is not ill, can be immunised as can a child who is on antibiotics and obviously recovering from an illness.

Children who have had a serious allergic reaction with breathing difficulty to a previous dose of vaccine should not be given the same vaccine again, but this needs to be discussed with your doctor.

Immunisation should be carefully considered for children with cancer, an immune deficiency disorder or who are on medications which may interfere with their ability to fight infection. This should also be discussed with your doctor. Children who have had a blood transfusion or immunoglobulin should not have their Measles/Mumps/Rubella or Polio vaccine until three months after the transfusion.

If you are in doubt about whether your child is fit for immunisation, it is recommended that you discuss the circumstances with your doctor or nurse before postponing immunisation.

Question:  Can immunisations overload the immune system?

Answer: No. Everyone comes into contact with many antigens (substances that provoke a reaction from the immune system) each day and the immune system responds to each of the antigens in various ways to protect the body.

With a vaccine, if the 'illness' does occur, it is usually insignificant. The risks associated with the vaccine are low.

Without a vaccine you can only become immune to a disease by being exposed to infection. The risks associated with diseases are high and can cause severe illness.

Immunisations provide protection (immunity) to diseases in the same way as the 'natural' immunity that occurs when a person 'catches' the disease.

Question: Can more than one immunisation be given at the same time?

Answer: Yes. Vaccinations recommended for babies and children can safely be administered at a single visit as long as they are given in separate syringes and in different parts of the body.

The recommended immunisation schedule has a reduced number of injections given at each immunisation session due to the use of new combination vaccines.

Question: Do some children get the disease despite being immunised?

Answer: Yes, it is possible as no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. A small proportion of those who are immunised will remain susceptible to the disease. If the illness does occur in immunised children, it is usually much less severe than for those who were not immunised.

Question: Isn't natural immunity better than vaccine-induced immunity?

Answer: Natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are both natural responses of the body's immune system. The body's immune response in both circumstances is the same.

While vaccine-induced immunity may diminish with time, 'natural' immunity, acquired by catching the disease, is usually life-long. The problem is that the ‘wild’ or 'natural' disease has a high risk of causing serious illness and occasionally death.

Children or adults can be re-immunised (with some vaccines but not all) if their immunity falls to a low level. It is important to remember that vaccines are many times safer than the diseases they prevent.

Question: Should children be immunised while their mother is pregnant?

Answer: There is no problem with giving routine immunisations to a child whose mother is pregnant. In fact, immunising the child will protect the mother from being exposed to diseases like Rubella.

Question: What if my child has a chronic disease?

Answer: In general, children with chronic diseases should be immunised as a matter of priority because they are often more at risk from complications from the diseases. Care is needed, however, in situations where the child's illness, or its treatment may result in lower immunity.

Question: What if my child has allergies or has asthma?

Answer: Children with asthma, eczema, hay fever and other allergies should be immunised.

An important exception is genuine severe allergy to egg with reactions such as generalised hives, swelling of the mouth or throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing, low blood pressure and shock. If a child has a history of severe egg allergy, then influenza, Yellow Fever and Q fever vaccines (produced in eggs) are usually not used. If you have any concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Question: What if my child is due to have an operation?

Answer: Immunisations should not be postponed if a child is due to have an operation. Please consult your doctor.

Question: What if someone in the family has had a reaction to an immunisation?

Answer: Immunisations should not be missed if a family member has had any reaction to a vaccine as reactions are not hereditary.

Question: Where should immunisations be recorded?

Answer: Every time a child is immunised, the information should be recorded in the Child Health Record book (green book) which is given to parents in the hospital or birth centre when their child is born.

It is important to keep these records as a reminder of when immunisations are due, and to assist in checking which children in the family are immunised if there is an outbreak of disease. Your child's Health Record book is completed by the nurse giving the immunisation.