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Babies and toddlers

In the first years of life, a baby’s immune system is not fully developed. Learn more about the diseases below and how you can help protect your child during this early stage of growth.

  • Diseases

    Please select a disease to learn more or speak to a healthcare professional for more information.

    Chickenpox (varicella)

    With its typical red blistering and itchy rash, chickenpox is a highly contagious but generally mild infection.

     Learn more

    Diphtheria

    While now extremely rare in Australia, diphtheria continues to cause illness overseas.

     Learn more

    Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

    Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) causes a bacterial infection that can lead to serious illness, especially in young children.

     Learn more

    Hepatitis A

    This disease of the liver is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Symptoms may last for several weeks, but most people fully recover.

     Learn more

    Hepatitis B

    This disease of the liver is transmitted through blood or other bodily fluids.

     Learn more

    Measles

    Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that causes a rash and fever.

     Learn more

    Meningococcal disease

    Initial symptoms of meningococcal disease can be difficult to recognise, and can easily be mistaken for a common cold or virus.

     Learn more

    Mumps

    This viral infection causes swelling of the salivary glands and fever.

     Learn more

    Pneumococcal disease

    A bacterial infection that usually affects the very young and the elderly. Others can be at risk of complications, too.

     Learn more

    Polio

    Polio is rare in Australia but is a serious disease that is caused by infection with poliovirus.

     Learn more

    Rotavirus

    In infants and young children, rotavirus disease is the most common cause of severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

     Learn more

    Rubella

    Also called German measles, rubella is generally a mild infection. Yet it can have serious, lifelong consequences for unborn babies or can lead to miscarriage.

     Learn more

    Seasonal Influenza (flu)

    This highly contagious viral infection can affect anyone and is more common in winter.

     Learn more

    Tetanus

    Caused by bacteria commonly found in soil and manure, which enter the body through wounds or breaks in the skin.

     Learn more

    Whooping cough (pertussis)

    This bacterial infection is highly contagious and affects people of all ages. It can cause serious disease in babies and complications in older adults.

     Learn more

The Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP) outlines a series of government funded immunisations given at specific times throughout a child's life. In addition, vaccines for other diseases that are not funded may be recommended for specific life stages in the Australian Immunisation Handbook (a resource developed by a government body to provide advice to healthcare professionals).1,2

  •  Immunisation funded via the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for everyone
  •  Immunisation recommended in the Australian Immunisation Handbook but is not funded
  •  Immunisation funded via the NIP for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and/or medically at-risk* children only
  •  Immunisation recommended in the Australian Immunisation Handbook for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and/or medically at-risk* children only but is not funded

*Please speak with a healthcare professional for more information in relation to any of the diseases below and what conditions are considered under "medically at risk"


There may be combined immunisations available which can cover more than one disease listed below. Please speak with a healthcare professional for more information. 

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Diseases Birth 2 months 4 months 6 months 12 months 18 months 4 years 10 to <15 years 15-19 years
Chickenpox (varicella)                  
A second dose of varicella vaccine is recommended any time between 4 years of age and less than 14 years, at least 4 weeks after the first dose. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
Diphtheria                  
 
Hepatitis A                  
Two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine are recommended and NIP-funded for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at 12 months and 18 months living in certain areas. A two-dose schedule (which is not funded) is also recommended for some medically at-risk children and adolescents. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
Hepatitis B                  
An additional booster vaccine is recommended at 12 months of age for preterm infants who were born at less than 32 weeks gestation or whose birth weight was under 2000 grams. Speak to your doctor to learn more.
Haemophilus influenzae type b                  
 
Human Papillomavirus                  
 
Measles                  
 
Meningococcal ACWY disease                  
The meningococcal ACWY vaccine is strongly recommended (but not funded) for children less than 2 years of age, adolescents (15 - 19 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2 months - 19 years), and those aged at or above 2 months with certain medical conditions. A free dose is given at 12 months of age. For anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease the vaccine is recommended if their doctor deems it appropriate. Speak to your doctor to learn more or see who is most at risk of meningococcal disease here.
Meningococcal B disease                  
The meningococcal B vaccine is strongly recommended (but not funded) for children less than 2 years of age, adolescents (15 - 19 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (2 months - 19 years), and those aged at or above 2 months with certain medical conditions. For anyone wishing to reduce their risk of meningococcal disease the vaccine is recommended if their doctor deems it appropriate. Speak to your doctor to learn more or see who is most at risk of meningococcal disease here.
Mumps                  
 
Pneumococcal disease                  
An additional dose of pneumococcal vaccine is recommended and NIP-funded at 6 months of age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Two additional doses (at 6 months and 4 years) are recommended and NIP-funded for medically-at risk children. Further doses may be recommended and funded during adolescence depending on risk – speak to your doctor to learn more.
Polio                  
 
Rotavirus                  
 
Rubella                  
 
Tetanus                  
 
Whooping cough (pertussis)                  
 
Seasonal influenza                  
The influenza vaccine is recommended annually for all people aged 6 months and over. Influenza vaccine is funded under the NIP for those at or above 6 months of age with certain medical conditions and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months to under 5 years and those aged at or above 15 years. Learn more about who should receive flu vaccination.
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Reference: 

  1. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation Handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au. 
  2. Australian Governement Department of Health. National immunisation program schedule. available at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule
  • What is the immune system?

    The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells and processes that defend the body against germs to help keep us healthy. 

    If germs such as viruses or bacteria enter the body, there are specialised cells in our immune system that identify them and produce a response to fight the infection. 

    The immune system can also ‘remember’ the attack from germs so it can fight them more easily the next time they enter the body.

  • What are infectious diseases?

    Infectious diseases are caused by germs such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. These germs can be harmless or under certain conditions, they may cause disease. The way infectious diseases are transmitted, their signs and symptoms, prevention and treatment options will vary depending on the type of germ. 

    Practicing good hygiene can help to protect against illness and reduce the spread of germs. Good hygiene involves;

    • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow. Throw the tissue in the rubbish after using it.
    • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • if no water is available use an alcohol-based hand-rub
    • avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • if you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to reduce the risk of infecting them
    • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this is how germs can spread
    • disinfect and clean objects and surfaces that may be contaminated.

    The risk of some infectious diseases may also be reduced through immunisation.

    For more information about infectious diseases please speak to a healthcare professional.

  • Are babies, toddlers and children's immune system different to adults?

    A child’s immune system is not as well developed as an adult's. When a baby is born their immune system is not fully developed, making them more vulnerable to some infections and diseases. As they grow, they are naturally exposed to many different germs every day and this helps develop their immune system.

  • How can I help protect by baby, toddler and/ or child from infectious diseases?

    During childhood there may be an increased risk of certain infectious diseases as the immune system is not fully developed. 

    Below are some things you can do to help keep you and your child healthy:

    • practice good hygiene such as; washing hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds especially before eating, covering mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing
    • avoid sharing food or utensils with others
    • stay at home when sick and keeping away from people who are sick
    • early recognition and treatment of infectious diseases
    • encourage a healthy diet
    • reduce the risk of some infectious diseases through immunisation

    Please speak to a healthcare professional for further information.

  • Do breastfed babies obtain immunity from breast milk?

    The antibodies in breast milk help fight off infection and provide some protection for your baby. However, they are short-lived and cannot help protect against all infections.

  • How do vaccines work?

    Vaccines work by teaching your immune system to fight future infections. Vaccines generally contain forms or specific parts of the germ that causes the disease, but because these elements of the germ are dead, inactivated or severely weakened, a vaccine cannot give you the disease. 

    When the vaccine enters your body – either via a needle or oral dose – your immune system gets to work and produces specialised cells called ‘antibodies’ that are able lock onto and destroy the germ. Your immune system is then able to remember the germ and produce those antibodies to help destroy it if you are exposed to the disease again.

  • What are the common side effects of immunisations?

    You may experience some side effects after immunisation. Most are mild, short-lived and clear within a few days.

    Common side effects can include:

    • a sore arm
    • fever
    • pain and redness at the injection site
    • babies may be unsettled or sleepy

    Severe side effects like an allergic reaction are rare. If you think you or your child are experiencing a severe reaction, you should seek medical attention immediately.

    If you have any concerns about the side effects of immunisations, please speak to a healthcare professional.

  • Why immunise for less common or old diseases?

    Vaccines are given for potentially serious and fatal diseases, some that were common in Australia before immunisation was available. The germs that cause these diseases are still around however due to high rates of immunisation in Australia, most of these diseases are now fortunately very rare. In some countries however, there may be diseases that are more common and these could be brought back into Australia by travellers.

  • Can you still get a disease despite being immunised for it?

    Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease – although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.

  • Can too many immunisations overwhelm a baby's immune system?

    From birth onwards, babies are naturally exposed to thousands of antigens a day. Antigens are substances that stimulate an immune response such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals and toxins. Children build up their exposure through things like playing, drinking and eating.

    Compared to this everyday exposure, immunisations contain a small amount of antigen. So rather than overwhelming the baby’s immune system, immunisations actually help strengthen it for specific diseases.

    Speak with your healthcare professional if you’re concerned about multiple immunisations.

  • Can I delay immunisations until my child is older?

    Immunising your child at the ages and dosing schedule recommended by the National Immunisation Program can help protect them from potentially serious childhood diseases.

    Delaying an immunisation increases the amount of time your child does not have the immune response provided by a vaccine and therefore may be at higher risk of catching a disease if it was in the community.

    A scheduled immunisation may be delayed if your child:

    • has a high temperature (over 38.5ºC)
    • has a weakened immune system (e.g. receiving chemotherapy)
    • has received another immunisation or medication prior to the scheduled immunisation
    • has another medical condition that needs to be considered.

    For more information please speak with a healthcare professional.

  • Why do children need booster doses of some vaccines?

    With some diseases, the level of protection provided by an immunisation can decrease over time. Booster doses help maintain immunity over time.

    Please discuss your Individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • What is the National Immunisation Program (NIP)?

    The NIP is a schedule of vaccines, from infancy through to adulthood, that are provided free of charge by the Australian Government.

    For more information please speak to a healthcare professional.

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190006 Date of GSK Approval: July 2021