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At risk group - children

Page last updated on 06 August 2019

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides a series of free vaccinations to Australians at specific times throughout their life.

In addition, some children and teenagers, because of their medical history and lifestyle, may be at higher risk of developing diseases than others. These are termed “medically at-risk”. The NIP provides additional free vaccinations to some of these at-risk children and teenagers.1,2

For children, ‘at-risk’ includes Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders (from 6 months of age) who tend to have higher rates of vaccine-preventable diseases, and who are eligible for free additional vaccines such as pneumococcal, influenza and hepatitis A. Because of medical conditions, other children and teenagers may also fall into the ‘medically at-risk’ group and may also be eligible for free vaccines. Your doctor will be able to advise if your child is medically at-risk.1,2

Vaccination requirements may vary for some people. For example, they may vary depending on an underlying medical condition, travel plans, background/cultural heritage, as well as lifestyle.2-4 Note that these varying circumstances, which may put your child or teenager at a higher risk of contracting a vaccine-preventable disease, does not imply that they are therefore eligible for free vaccinations under the NIP. 

Speak with your healthcare professional to discuss the vaccination options that are recommended for your child.
 

Commonly asked questions

Who is considered ‘medically at risk’?

Children with certain conditions are considered to be ‘medically at-risk’. This is because they are either at higher risk of developing the particular infection, at more risk of complications as a result of the infection and/or might need additional vaccine doses to provide sufficient ongoing immunity. What conditions fall into the ‘medically at-risk’ category will be different for the different vaccine-preventable diseases.  As well as those with certain conditions, children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin are also considered at higher risk of developing certain vaccine-preventable diseases and may require additional vaccinations.

Talk to your doctor if you think that your child has a chronic medical condition about whether additional vaccines are required.

Who is considered “medically at-risk” and eligible for a free influenza vaccine?

In addition to older adults (over 65 years), pregnant women, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples (aged 6 months and over), as well as adults with the following medical conditions may be eligible for a free influenza vaccine each year:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Chronic respiratory conditions
  • Chronic neurological conditions
  • Immunocompromising condition
  • Diabetes and other metabolic disorders
  • Renal disease
  • Haematological disorders


Note that other groups of adults (e.g. travellers to other countries, workers in aged care facilities) are also at-risk, but are not eligible for a free influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program (NIP). 

Speak to your healthcare professional about how you can best protect yourself against influenza.

Who is considered ‘medically at risk for pneumococcal disease?

Children with the following conditions are considered at greater risk of pneumococcal disease and may require additional vaccinations against this illness, including children:

  • who have had their spleen removed or where it does not work properly
  • with cystic fibrosis or severe asthma
  • who are immunocompromised (e.g. HIV positive, receiving chemotherapy or organ transplant recipients)
  • with Down syndrome
  • with cochlear implants
  • with chronic kidney failure
  • of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin who live in NT, QLD, WA and SA.

Note that this is not full list. There may be other conditions that increase the risk of pneumococcal disease in children. Speak with your doctor for further information.

What additional vaccines are recommended for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children?

What additional vaccines are given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will depend on which state or territory the child lives in. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from 6 months of age are eligible for an influenza vaccine via the National Immunisation Program (NIP). Vaccines for hepatitis A, pneumococcal disease and tuberculosis may also be recommended depending on which state or territory you live in.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about what is recommended.

Does my child or teenager need vaccines if they travelling?

It is advised to see a healthcare professional at least 6-8 weeks before travelling overseas, as there may be diseases prevalent where you are heading that are either not present in Australia, or for which we have very low rates. They can not only provide you with advice on vaccinations, but also on any other medications you may require, or precautions you should take. Note that many of these vaccines are not covered under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and are therefore not free.

My child has asthma, are they eligible for the free influenza vaccine?

Yes.  

If your child has severe asthma which requires frequent medical consultation, or uses multiple medications, then they are eligible for a free influenza (flu) vaccine.
 

Can I get more than one vaccine at a time?

Yes. 

It is safe and effective to receive more than one vaccine at the same time. In fact, many vaccines are already combined, for example, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) (dTpa). 
 

Your doctor may choose to give you the injection in different locations, for example, an arm and a leg. There are some vaccines that cannot be given at the same time, such as BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) for tuberculosis (TB) and varicella (chicken pox), so seek advice from your GP or healthcare practitioner about the amount of time needed between such vaccinations.

VaccineHub offers general information only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice

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Sources & Citations

  1. Australian Government. Department of Health. How do I immunise my child? Available at https://campaigns.health.gov.au/immunisationfacts/how-do-i-immunise-my-child (accessed 19 April 2018).
  2. Australian Government. Department of Health. National Immunisation Program Schedule, Available at https://beta.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule (accessed 19 April 2018).
  3. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition. Part 3 Vaccination for Special Risk Groups. Available at http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part3 (accessed 25 April 2018).
  4. Victorian Government. Health. Immunisation Schedule January 2018. Available at https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/publications/policiesandguidelines/immunisation-schedule-victoria-january-2018 (accessed 25 April 2018).
  5. Queensland Government. Medically at-risk groups. Available at: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/immunisation/increased-risk/medical (accessed 7 July 2018).
  6. NSW Government. Pneumococcal disease fact sheet. Available at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/pneumococcal-disease.aspx (accessed 7 July 2018).
  7. Australian Government. Department of Health. National Immunisation Program Schedule. Available at: https://beta.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule (accessed 7 July 2018).
  8. Australian Department of Health. Immunisation for Travel. Available at https://beta.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/immunisation-for-travel (accessed 12 June 2018).
  9. Australian Government. Department of Health. The flu vaccine – Information for consumers 2018 fact sheet. Available at https://beta.health.gov.au/resources/publications/the-flu-vaccine-information-for-consumers-in-2018-fact-sheet (accessed 25 April 2018).
  10. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 10th Edition. Part 3 Vaccination for Special Risk Groups. Available at http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part3 (accessed 25 April 2018).

SPANZ.SAPAS.18.05.0210(1) - Date of preparation May 2019

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