Most patients and parents are aware of the vaccinations available on the Government funded schedule – all Australian children are eligible to receive these for free. Diseases such as hepatitis B, pertussis (whooping cough), diptheria, polio, measles, mumps and rubella are just some of the ones we vaccinate against. BUT, there are now many other additional vaccinations available to reduce your child’s risk of disease even further – and I can tell you more and more patients are starting to use these.
Compiled here are the common additional vaccinations that you may want to consider for your child. All of these are available on private script (which means you have to pay out of pocket, unless you fit into the high risk group that the Government will fund the vaccination for – the criteria varies for each vaccination so you need to speak to your GP).
- Meningococcal B vaccination
On the Australian schedule all vaccinated children receive a Meningococcal C vaccine at 12 months (they receive this at the same time as the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine). Meningococcal is a potentially fatal disease and there are many strains; children under 5 years old are most at risk, as well as those aged 15 to 24. Being vaccinated against the C strain does NOT protect you from the other strains of the bacteria and this is where I find most patients get confused. Imagine a bug with 5 different variations – each slightly unique, a different colour or shape. I can vaccinate you against the blue circular variation, but you won’t be protected against the green square or the yellow triangle types. That’s where each vaccination is unique and covers a different strain.
The vaccine against meningococcal B is called Bexsero™ and the number of doses depends on the age you start vaccinating your child. Children under 6 months need 3 doses, however, those over 6 months only require 2. The Bexsero™ vaccine is in short supply in Australia so if you want to vaccinate yourself or your child then you might need to wait for pharmacies to get stock.
Personally, we vaccinated Miss S against this before she was 6 months old due to our overseas travel and our professional experiences with meningococcal – we have both seen patients with those diseases and we were not going to take the chance.
- Flu shot
Children with chronic medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes will get this funded for by the Government. For everyone else however, you have to pay and it generally costs $20-$30. The flu shot and the strains it covers changes every year (as the flu virus is constantly adapting, they have to keep adapting the vaccine). If you choose to vaccinate your child from Influenza you need to get the vaccine yearly. The first year you vaccinate your child they require 2 vaccines (IF under 9 years old) at least 4 weeks apart to mount an adequate immune response. Influenza can be lethal due to its complications such as pneumonia.
On a personal note, Miss S was vaccinated against this as a 1 year old – she received 2 doses 4 weeks apart. As a GP I am vaccinating more and more children against this as parents try to protect their children from the highly contagious disease.
- Meningococcal A, C, Y, W vaccine
This is a vaccination that many Australian parents are now giving their children now that the W strain is making a resurgence in Australia. Currently, the Government is funding vaccination against this strain for high school children; everyone else has to pay for the vaccination. There are 3 vaccines available –Menveo™, Menactra™ and Nimenrix™ (there is a range of doses, and target age groups). Whilst these were traditionally recommended when travelling to high risk areas, many parents are now vaccinating their children because the issue is closer to home.
We did vaccinate Miss S against this in 2017 – she received a single dose of Nimenrix™ (she does not need a booster dose as she is not high risk).
The tuberculosis vaccine is one you might need to consider if travelling to an ‘at-risk’ area (India, Fiji etc) with your child. This vaccine is in short supply but if you’re planning travel to one of these countries then it’s worth speaking to a paediatric travel doctor who can assess your need for the vaccine (your GP can refer you). Miss S received this vaccination prior to our India trip as she was under 12 months old and at risk of complicated disease due to her age. It is worth noting that the vaccination is in short supply world-wide so only high-risk individuals are vaccinated currently – a paediatric travel doctor must be the one to assess you.
I hope this helps answer your questions and allows you as a family to decide which additional vaccinations you may want to consider. If you found this helpful please share it with other parents – I find this is one of the commonest areas I get asked about.