Immunise to save lives

The to-do-list for parents of children starting early childhood education is a long one. There are new routines to learn, lunchboxes to pack and immunisations to organise.

Immunisation records collected by the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) may be used as proof of immunisation for early education enrolments.

Education providers around the country have their own policies and timeframes for when these records are required, but the good news is you can download your child’s immunisation history statement easily, at any time.

These records can also have an impact on Centrelink payments like the Child Care Subsidy and Family Tax Benefit. Families are expected to ensure their children receive the required immunisations on time.

Nikki Feld, mum of two young children from Melbourne, knows this routine well. Max is 4 years old and at kinder, but began attending their local childcare at 16 months old. Lily is now 16 months old and has just started childcare for the first time.

Nikki said despite the requirement to have her children’s records up to date, the decision to immunise her children was an easy one.

“We completely understand why these rules are in place and it makes us feel better that our children are in an environment surrounded by other immunised children,” Nikki said.

“Particularly as Max and Lily started at an age when they hadn’t had all of their immunisations yet.

“I don’t know how I would live with myself if Max or Lily contracted a deadly yet preventable disease because they weren’t fully immunised.

Playing kids
Max & Lily

“I go through the local council program, which is a free and easy process. We also chose to pay for the Meningococcal B vaccination which was costly, but we’ll do anything to protect our children.”

It’s easy to check if your child’s vaccinations are up to date.

You can view and download your statement anytime using your Medicare online account through myGov. You can also use the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.

Nikki said the process is quick, easy and convenient for busy parents.

“I have the Medicare app on my phone, so at the start of each year I can download my children’s immunisation records or email them to myself,” Nikki said.

“Then it’s as simple as emailing a copy to my kinder and childcare provider.”

IHS app
Medicare Express Plus app view to download the AIR.

If you can’t access your records, your doctor can print your immunisation history statement for you. This is especially helpful for people who aren’t Australian citizens and don’t have online access to the AIR.

Dr Maeve O’Donnell is a family GP who has worked in clinics across Dublin and Melbourne and has seen firsthand the positive impact of immunisation on young children.

“Health and illness affect people, families and communities in very unique and often unpredictable ways,” said Maeve.

Womam at the table
Dr Maeve O’Donnell

“It’s heartbreaking to see children suffer unnecessarily and carry long term scars of significant illness such as hearing loss, seizures, amputated digits and limbs, or learning difficulties.

“The broader community is also put at risk. For example, measles is contagious four days before and four days after the rash, meaning that people are exposed without realising. In some cases this can be deadly.  

“Herd immunity is a very important effect of our national immunisation program. It occurs when more than 95 per cent of our population is immune to an illness.

“This can be lifesaving in unique and rare scenarios when a person is unable to receive a vaccine but their health is cocooned by the community around them.”

Department of Health statistics from September 2018 show a national coverage rate of 94 per cent of one year olds, 90.6 per cent of two year olds and 94.6 per cent of five year olds.

Maeve said these rates fall short of the 95 per cent goal.

Australia map
National Immunisation Coverage Rates – September 2018

“These statistics reflect a need for more work to educate parents about the importance of immunising their children for their families, as well as the young and vulnerable,” said Maeve.

“When I see infants and children for routine consults I often take the opportunity to access their immunisation history from the AIR so we can discuss any gaps or delays. 

Doctor and child with mother
Max & Lily with mum Nikki, having a check-up with Dr Maeve O’Donnell

“As a medical provider it’s also my responsibility to update the register as soon as a patient receives their immunisation so they always have access to the most up to date information.

“We are extremely privileged to live in a society with a great immunisation program. It’s a dynamic area that is constantly updated and improved which means children are better protected with every development.” 

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