Parents need accurate information about vaccine preventable diseases, writes Karalyn Huxhagen
The Immunise Australia Program website contains a wealth of information relating to immunisation of all age groups and ethnicity. Their telephone number is 1800671811. This free and readily accessible resource can be used by parents, carers and health professionals.
It is important that parents and carers are aware of the need for immunisation as it is the best way to provide protection against infectious diseases that can spread readily in the community.
While the disease itself can be life-threatening, having to care for a very ill child impacts on many other areas of the family:
- Time away from work-carers leave quickly disappears when a family becomes unwell and can lead to leave without pay which affects the family income.
- Expense of visits to the doctor, medication, hospitalisation.
- Expense of laboratory testing and other investigations.
- Impact on other family members when one child is ill and demands the full time attention of the parent.
- The child may lose significant time away from school and other activities.
- Child may develop a loss of strength, weight and growth may be impeded by long-term illness.
- The child may become isolated from their family and friends.
Many parents and carers have concerns about the amount of vaccinating required as per the Australian Immunisation Schedule. The National Immunisation Program (NIP) Schedule details the immunisation schedule for both children and adults. The schedule is broken down into:
- Child programs
- School programs
- At-risk groups
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders
- Children with medical conditions that place them at risk
It is important that new parents are aware that the immunisation schedule starts as soon as the baby is born. The Hepatitis B vaccination is given 24 hours after the birth of the baby and must be given within the first seven days after birth to maximise the benefit of this vaccine.
Parents/carers should keep their own records of vaccinations for their children.
Vaccinations are given in many different situations e.g. child and maternal health clinics, doctors’ surgeries, school programs, pandemic programs and visits to hospital. All of these centres should report to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) using the child’s Medicare number.
At times these recording mechanisms do not occur for various reasons e.g. child has not been registered on the parents’ Medicare card after birth.
The ‘No Jab No Pay’ legislation for accessing childcare services has identified a cohort of children who do not have current immunisation records on the AIR. Keeping your own records is vital when proving the immunisation status of the child.
Many parents believe that exposing a child to a vaccine preventable disease will build up their own immunity. While this is true, and was often used when I was a child, the child can become seriously ill from the disease. Vaccination can stimulate immunity without the child developing the disease.
On the Australian Immunisation Program website there are fact sheets that explain the safety aspects of vaccines used in Australia to vaccinate children. The fact sheets talk about the issues often raised by concerned parents:
- the use of Thiomersal in vaccines;
- immunisation and allergy and asthma;
- side effects that can be experienced after vaccination;
- immunisation and autism; and
- exposure to many vaccines in the schedule and the assault on the baby’s immune system.
There are directions on how to use the myGov website to check on the vaccination status of the child. The current National Immunisation Program provides vaccines against 17 diseases, 15 of which are important diseases in childhood.
Immunisation provides protection to both the recipient and the community that they live in. The ‘herd’ effect describes the protective effect that can be achieved by ensuring as many people in a community are immunised.
Pharmacy’s role is to give well informed advice and provide access to the information available on the website of the Australian Immunisation Program.
There are changes in the schedule regularly and pharmacists need to remain proactive in maintaining their knowledge of the schedule. This website contains a wealth of information for parents/carers in a very easy to understand format.
Please use these resources to provide accurate information to your customers.
Karalyn Huxhagen is a community pharmacist and was 2010 Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year. She has been named winner of the 2015 PSA Award for Quality Use of Medicines in Pain Management and is group facilitator of the Mackay Pain Support Group.