In Australia, immunisations are available to protect us from preventable diseases.
Before vaccination, GPs and immunisation providers will ask a number of questions to work out whether there are any risks to our health and to ensure we have all the information we need before making a decision to be immunised.
This pre-screening can also determine what vaccines we need based on our health, age, lifestyle and occupation (HALO).
This immunisation checklist will help you prepare so you know what to expect, and what information you will need to give your GP or clinic staff.
Who provides immunisation?
There are many different reasons why people need to be immunised, and who delivers them can also vary.
In Victoria, immunisation providers range from local councils, GPs, specially qualified nurses in clinics and community health services to travel clinics and some pharmacies and hospitals.
Some vaccines are free for eligible children and adults under the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program and the Victorian government vaccine programs while others are provided at a cost.
What to tell your GP or clinic nurse
Before receiving a vaccine, tell your GP (doctor) or nurse if you or someone in your care:
- is unwell
- has had a severe reaction to any previous vaccines
- has any severe allergies
- has had any vaccine in the past month
- has had an injection of immunoglobulin, or received any blood products, or a whole blood transfusion within the past year
- is pregnant
- is planning a pregnancy, or may become a parent in the near future
- is a parent, grandparent or carer of a newborn baby
- is a premature baby (born at less than 32 weeks), or weighed less than 2,000 grams at birth
- is a baby, who has had an intussusception (a blockage caused by parts of the bowel sliding into one another), or who could be at risk of intussusception due to a congenital abnormality
- is the baby of a mother who was receiving immunosuppressive therapy during the pregnancy
- has a chronic illness
- has a bleeding disorder
- doesn’t have a functioning spleen
- has a disease – or live with someone that has a disease – that causes lower immunity (for example, cancer or HIV )
- has a past history of Guillain-Barre syndrome
- is receiving treatment – or lives with someone who is receiving treatment – that causes lower immunity (for example, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or oral steroid medicines)
- is an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person
- is planning travel
- has an occupation or lifestyle that might require specific immunisation.
Questions from your GP or clinic nurse
Before they go ahead with any immunisation, your GP or clinic staff will ask:
- if you understand the information you’ve been given about the immunisation
- if you need any more information before you decide whether to vaccinate
- if you have brought any vaccination records with you.
Doctors and clinic staff have to thoroughly screen everyone before they give a vaccine. They should also:
- ensure they have the right person to be vaccinated
- ensure they are giving the correct vaccine and dose, according to the schedule, including catching up on missed vaccines
- consider whether they should offer any alternative or additional vaccines
- ensure the person being immunised is within the appropriate age range for that vaccine
- check that enough time has passed since any previous vaccines.
Do you have all the information you need?
There’s a lot of information available about immunisation, and it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed or not know where to start.
You may have questions such as:
Don’t be afraid to ask your GP or clinic nurse if you’re unsure. If you have young children, maternal and child health nurses, or paediatricians can also help.
In fact, before you agree to any vaccines, your immunisation provider has to give you all the information you need to understand what is happening, answer any questions you may have and discuss your options.
And the information has to be given to you in a language you can understand, so if you need an interpreter or a cultural support person, your GP or clinic nurse should offer you one.
You should get enough information on the risks and benefits of the vaccine for you to make an informed decision about whether to have that immunisation. This information will also include any side effects, how common they are, and what you can do about them.
Consent is important
You must consent (in writing or verbally) before a vaccine can be given. Parents or guardians will be asked to complete a consent form for children (under 18 years) whether or not they choose to have their child vaccinated.
Your consent must be voluntary, without any pressure, coercion or manipulation. And you do not have to give your consent until your immunisation provider has explained the risks and benefits.
Remember, you can take your time before making a decision about immunisation.
Recording immunisation history
It is also important to have an immunisation record. Your vaccine provider should give you a record of the vaccinations received for you to keep at home.
All immunisation providers should notify every vaccine they administer to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR).
The register started for children in 1996 then expanded to adults from September 2016. Remind your vaccine provider to notify the register each time you are vaccinated.
There are a number of ways to access immunisation records on the AIR. The quickest is to request an Immunisation History Statement by using a Medicare online account through myGov or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.
You can also:
- phone the Australian Immunisation Register enquiry line on 1800 653 809 (Monday to Friday from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm)
- visit your local Medicare or Centrelink office.
Records prior to 1996, were usually kept locally, (such as with the local council immunisation service, GP, hospital or travel clinic). They may also have been recorded in a baby health book and given to parents or carers to keep at home.
Keeping childhood immunisations up to date
Once children have started immunisation, it is really important to keep their vaccinations up to date to help protect them from serious childhood infections.
It is also a legal requirement to provide an Immunisation History Statement when you enrol your child in childcare, kindergarten or primary school in Victoria.
One of the most common reasons children fall behind in their immunisations is because parents simply forget, especially as the vaccinations become more spread out.
Victorian parents can download the free VaxOnTime app which prompts parents and carers with immunisation due date reminders, can help them find and make an appointment with the nearest immunisation providers.
Your local council or GP can immunise your child to 'catch up' on any missed vaccine doses.
Where can I get more information about immunisation?
Find out more about immunisation by speaking with your health professional. The best place to start is with your GP. You can also ask your clinic nurse or specialist.
There is also lots of information online. If you would like to know more about immunisation, check out the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program website.
When looking for immunisation information, stick to reliable information providers, such as:
Where to get help
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Department of Health and Human Services - RHP&R - Health Protection - Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Unit
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