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At risk group - children

Page last updated on 30 May 2022

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, ethnicity and lifestyle, may be at higher risk of developing diseases than others. These are termed “at-risk”. The NIP provides additional free vaccinations to some of these at-risk children and teenagers.

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 ‘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.

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. 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 ‘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 'at-risk” and eligible for a free influenza vaccine?

In addition to children less than 5 years of age, older adults (over 65 years), pregnant women and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, people with the following medical conditions may be eligible for a free influenza vaccine each year:

  • Heart disease
  • Severe asthma
  • Chronic lung conditions
  • Disease of the nervous system which affect your breathing
  • Impaired immunity
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Blood disorders (haemoglobinopathies)

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

Who is considered ‘at risk for pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal vaccine is free for all children at 2, 4 and 12 months of age as part of the NIP. 

Some children are considered at greater risk of pneumococcal disease and may require additional vaccinations against this illness, although these may not be covered by the NIP:

  • 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

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.

People of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin who live in NT, QLD, WA and SA are also at greater risk of infection from pneumococcal disease and may require additional vaccine doses. 

 

 

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 healthcare professional about what is recommended.

Does my child or teenager need vaccines if they are travelling?

It is advised to see a healthcare professional at least 6-12 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 possible 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). 

Giving vaccines in combination means fewer trips to the doctor and less pain and discomfort for children. Side effects from combination vaccines are usually mild, and are similar to when the vaccines are given separately.

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. National Immunisation Program Schedule. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/national-immunisation-program-schedule-portrait (accessed 2 May 2022).
  2. Queensland Government. Medically at-risk groups. Available at: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/immunisation/increased-risk/medical (accessed 2 May 2022).
  3. National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance. Immunisation recommendations for adults in Australia. Available at: http://www.ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2018-12/adult-vaccination-fact-sheet.pdf (accessed 2 May 2022).
  4. Australian Government. Department of Health. ATAGI clinical advice on changes to vaccine recommendations and funding for people with risk conditions from 1 July 2020. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/06/atagi-clinical-advice-on-vaccination-recommendations-for-people-with-risk-conditions-from-1-july-2020_0.pdf (accessed 2 May 2022).
  5. NSW Government. Pneumococcal disease fact sheet. Available at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/pneumococcal-disease.aspx (accessed 2 May 2022).
  6. Australian Government. Department of Health. Immunisation for travel. Available at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/immunisation-for-travel (accessed 2 May 2022).
  7. finder.com.au. Are travel vaccinations covered by health insurance? Available at: https://www.finder.com.au/travel-vaccinations (accessed 15 February 2022). 
  8. Centers for Disease Control. Vaccines for Your Children. Combination Vaccines. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/why-vaccinate/combination-vaccines.html (accessed 2 May 2022).

MAT-AU-2201299  Date of preparation May 2022

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