Immunisation – what you need to know

Immunisation is an important step people can take to look out for their health and wellbeing. It aids in protecting people against harmful infections before they come into contact with them.

While 95 per cent of Australians are up to date with their immunisation schedule, there are some areas where this rate is much lower. This has the potential to put others at risk.

Understanding immunisations relies on understanding how the immune system works. Essentially, immunisations help to strengthen your immune system. It helps your body respond quickly to fight against bacteria and viruses which cause serious disease and illness.

Every day we encounter bacteria and viruses, so a healthy immune system can stop you getting sick from these germs.

Immunisation offers a safe and effective way of protection against harmful illnesses. It not only protects you and your family, but also the whole community by helping to control serious diseases.

Vaccinations are one of the safest ways we can protect ourselves. And serious side effects are rare.

The recommendations below have been provided by the Department of Health and National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule.

Annual influenza vaccination

An important vaccination for everyone is the annual influenza vaccine.

The Australian Government strongly encourages all people aged six months and over to get their annual flu shot. The flu is highly contagious and can affect a lot of people. However, it can be a more serious issue for babies, pregnant women and people aged over 65 years.

The flu vaccine is available from authorised immunisation providers. If you’re eligible, you can get the vaccine for free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

Recommended immunisation schedule

Arguably the most critical time to follow the recommended immunisation schedule is from birth to four years of age. This helps to establish immunity against the raft of preventable diseases.

But people of all ages need to be aware of the diseases that can be avoided if you follow the recommended NIP schedule.

We recommend taking the time to review the NIP website for a comprehensive list of important vaccinations.

The vaccines commonly administered in childhood fight against diseases and antigens such as:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Haemophilus influenzae (Hib)
  • Pertussis
  • Polio
  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Pneumococcal
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Meningococcal
  • Varicella

We recommend taking the time to review the NIP website for a comprehensive list of these important vaccinations.

Understanding vaccinations after childhood

Adolescent immunisation is generally provided through school programs. Usually Gardasil® is given to ward off the human papillomavirus (HVP), along with another booster against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, and meningococcal.

As noted, the influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone aged over six months and especially those aged over 65 years. But there are also some other categories of people that are recommended to further protect themselves from specific preventable diseases with targeted vaccines.

Infants and elderly people have the highest pneumococcal disease burden. Invasive pneumococcal disease also affects higher rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults. Immunisation specific to the disease is strongly recommended for all people aged over 50 in this group and those aged 15-49 with high medical risk factors. All people aged 65 and over are best to be protected from pneumococcal disease.

Pregnant women should take a single dose of pertussis vaccine during each pregnancy or a dose shortly after giving birth to be protected from whooping cough.

Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in a person who has had chickenpox. The lifetime risk of reactivation of VZV is about 50 per cent and it affects half of people who live to 80 years of age. The NIP recommends people aged 70-79 years be vaccinated against the disease.

Immunisation is safe

Immunisation is a safe and effective way of providing protection against treatable disease.

All vaccines available in Australia are subjected to thorough research and testing. The effectiveness of immunisation is monitored and evaluated by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. For more information visit www.immunisationfacts.gov.au or speak with your GP.

The team at Newcastle and Hunter Community Health are passionate advocates of the National Immunisation Program and are happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today.

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