Now that your child is 12 months old, three age-specific vaccines are recommended: 4vMenCV, 13vPCV and MMR. These three vaccines help protect your child from five diseases. It is also recommended that your child gets an influenza vaccine every year before influenza season. The vaccines are given as needles, usually in your child’s arms.
What diseases do the vaccines protect children against?
Three age-specific vaccines are recommended for your child at 12 months of age. The technical names for the vaccines are:
- 4vMenCV, which protects against meningococcal disease caused by four types of meningococcus (A, C, W and Y)
- 13vPCV, which protects against pneumococcal disease caused by 13 types of pneumococcus
- combined MMR vaccine, which protects children from measles, mumps and rubella.
It is also recommended that your child gets an influenza vaccine every year before influenza season. An influenza vaccine is one of the best ways to protect your child against influenza, sometimes called ‘the flu’. Influenza vaccines are free and can be given at the same time as age-specific vaccines.
You can read more about these diseases below:
Meningococcal disease can cause swelling around the brain (meningitis) and blood poisoning (sepsis). The germs usually live in the mucus found in a person’s nose and throat. They spread between people when they cough or kiss. Meningococcal disease can be fatal. Children who survive can have brain damage or other long-term problems, like severe scars or amputations.1
Pneumococcal disease is caused by germs (bacteria) that can cause swelling around the brain (meningitis), infection in the lungs (pneumonia), ear infections that can damage babies' hearing, and other serious diseases. Babies and children can catch it from each other just like they catch colds.1
Measles is best known as a disease that causes a red and blotchy rash. It spreads from person to person just like a cold, even before the rash starts. Measles can be very serious. It causes lung infections (pneumonia), blindness, bleeding (thrombocytopenia) and brain diseases including meningitis and subacute sclerosing panencephalitis or SSPE. SSPE is very rare, but always fatal.1
Mumps is a virus that spreads from person to person. It causes headaches, sore throat, fevers (high temperatures), aching muscles and painful swellings in the jaw area. Rarely, mumps causes brain infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.1
Rubella is sometimes called ‘German measles’ because it causes a rash that looks like the one caused by measles, but it is a different disease. Rubella is usually a very mild illness, but it spreads easily from one person to another. If a pregnant woman catches rubella, her baby will almost certainly be born with serious birth defects such as deafness, blindness or brain damage. Vaccinating children against rubella helps protect mothers and their babies against the disease.1
Influenza is an illness caused by influenza viruses. Although some of the symptoms are similar, influenza is different from the common cold. Influenza is usually more severe and lasts longer. Even if your child is usually healthy, influenza can make them very unwell. Influenza can lead to serious conditions like severe lung infection (pneumonia) or inflammation in the brain (encephalitis). Babies and children under 5 years are more likely to get severe influenza. They are more likely than adults and older children to need treatment in hospital. 1
What do I need to do before our appointment?
There’s no need to do anything special to get your child ready for their vaccinations, but you can plan to take some toys with you, or load some music or a video onto your phone or tablet beforehand.
Children can usually get their vaccinations on time even if they are feeling a little unwell. If your child has a high fever or if you are worried they are not well enough to be vaccinated, give your doctor or nurse a call. They will let you know if you should come in or if you need to make an appointment for another day.
You’ll need to take your child’s health record booklet with you (that’s the one you were given in hospital or at the birth centre when your child was born). Your doctor or nurse will make notes in the booklet about your child’s growth and development and write down the details of the vaccinations they have.
What will happen when we get there?
Some parents take their children to their local general practice where the doctor (GP) or practice nurse will give the vaccine. Others take their children to a vaccination clinic run by nurses. The majority of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services also give vaccinations. Vaccination appointments can run differently in different places but this is a rough guide to what you can expect on the day.
- Appointments usually begin with a health check. Your doctor or nurse will ask you how you and your child are going. They will ask what questions you have for them. They’ll measure and weigh your child. And they will write some notes in your child’s health record booklet to help you keep track of how they’re growing and developing.
- Once that’s done, the doctor or nurse will get the vaccinations ready. Some doctors will ask you to go to another room where a nurse who is specially trained in vaccinating children will vaccinate your child.
- Most doctors and nurses will suggest that you hold your child during the vaccinations. If you find it upsetting , ask a family member or friend to do it for you. If you can’t bring anyone with you, let your doctor or nurse know: they may be able to arrange someone to stand in for you.
- The needles usually go in the child’s arms. The doctor or nurse will be as quick and gentle as they can. They might ask a colleague to help so they can give more than one needle at once – it just makes things a little faster and easier.
- The doctor or nurse will ask you to stay at the clinic for about 15 minutes after the vaccinations. This is so they can make sure everything is OK before you and your child leave.
Take a look at our video: What will happen when I get there?
How can I make it easier for my child?
No matter how gentle your doctor or nurse is, needles hurt! And most babies cry at least a little after they get a needle.
The good news is there are things you can do for your child to make needles feel less painful.
- Holding or cuddling babies triggers the release of pain-relieving hormones, so you can hold your baby firmly, for example in a chest-to-chest position, before, during and after the needles.2
- There are pain-relieving substances in breastmilk so, if your baby is breastfed, you can offer a breastfeed during or straight after the needles.2
- Sucking helps relieve babies’ pain. If your baby is no longer breastfeeding, you can offer a dummy or have a bottle of formula or milk ready to go.
- Sugar is known to reduce pain for young children, so you can give your child a sweetened drink or a lolly (like a lollipop) just before they get their needles.2
- At this age, you can ask the doctor or nurse to use a local anaesthetic patch to numb the skin where the needle goes in. The patch comes as a cream on a sticky patch and takes about half an hour to work.2
- Distractions help reduce pain for children at this age. When it’s time for the needles, you can distract your child with a toy or an activity like reading or singing. Some parents give their children a phone or a tablet to play with.
- Taking big breaths may calm your child and make needles hurt less. Blowing paper windmills or making soap bubbles can encourage your child to take some deep breaths while the doctor or nurse gives them their needles. You may need someone to help with this while you hold your child.
Take a look at our video: How can I make it easier for my child?
How will my child feel after the vaccinations?
For a day or two afterwards, most children feel a little unwell. The most common reactions are:
- redness, soreness or swelling at the spot where the needles went in
- loss of appetite
- mild fever (temperature)
- slight headache
- feeling achy
- feeling sick (nausea)
- slight swelling under the ears
- grizzly or unsettled behaviour
- tiredness and sleepiness.
Usually these symptoms last between 12 and 24 hours and then get better.
Some children get a fever and a slight rash about ten days after having the MMR vaccine. These usually only last for a few days.
If your child doesn’t seem to be getting better, or you are worried about your child, you can get help from:
- your doctor
- or your nearest emergency department
- or by calling Health Direct on 1800 022 222.
Are there any rare side effects I need to know about?
Serious side effects are very rare, but they can happen and some parents want to know more about them before they vaccinate their children.
About one in every 3,000 children experience fits or seizures known as ‘febrile convulsions’ around seven to ten days after they get the MMR vaccine. Febrile convulsions are scary for parents to see, but children usually recover quickly without any long-term effects.1 Febrile convulsions can occur when a child’s temperature goes up very quickly, and stop once their temperature stops rising.
Around three to five children among every one million (1,000,000) children who get the MMR vaccine have a reaction that causes a condition called thrombocytopenia.1 Thrombocytopenia causes children to bruise or bleed very easily. It usually lasts for between one and six months and then gets better.
‘Anaphylaxis’ is a severe allergic reaction to one of the vaccine ingredients. Less than one in every one million babies who gets a vaccine has this reaction.1 Anaphylaxis usually happens within a few minutes of vaccination, before you and your baby leave the clinic. Your doctor or nurse knows what to do to help a baby having an anaphylactic reaction recover quickly.
When do we come back for more vaccinations?
When your child is 18 months old, three age-specific vaccines are recommended. One is a combined MMRV vaccine to strengthen their immunity to measles, mumps and rubella, and to protect them from varicella (chickenpox). The other two vaccines (DTPa and Hib) strengthen their immunity against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and Hib.
If your child has had an influenza vaccine for the first time, they will need a second dose 4 weeks later.
It is important that children get vaccinated on time to make sure they are protected as early as possible.
What if I still have questions?
If you still have some questions about vaccinations for your baby, write them down and make an appointment with your nurse, your doctor, or your health worker so you can ask them.
- Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation Handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au
- Taddio A, et al. Reducing pain during vaccine injections: clinical practice guideline. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2015;187:975-982 http://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/187/13/975.full.pdf