Protecting you child - Understanding Childhood Immunisation DVD

DVD on immunisation developed specifically for Immunisation Providers to use as an educational tool with parents and carers of children under the age of four, in either a group environment or individually. Available online

Page last updated: April 2015

Protecting you child - Understanding Childhood Immunisation DVD

Cover notes:
Antonia Kidman, television presenter and mother, talks to some of Australia’s leading immunisation experts to find answers to the common questions many parents have when it comes to immunising their children.

Antonia talks to the experts to the experts to find out:
What is in vaccines? Why and how do they work?
Why is immunisation still necessary in this day and age?
What diseases are covered by the National Immunisation Program?
Are there any reasons for delaying immunisation?
What are the side effects of immunisation?
Why do children sometimes need a series of vaccines?
Do vaccines work for all children?
Is natural immunity an option?
Can immunisation overload a child’s immune system?

For further information on immunisation please:
Ask your doctor, midwife or community health nurse
Call the Immunise Australia Information Line on 1800 671 811

All the information on this DVD is correct as of July 2007

Father: Jeff Northam
Mother: Nicole Peake
Mother: Melissa Pacque

Female speaker 1: Dr Nicole Gilroy, Infectious Diseases Physician, Westmead Hospital
Female speaker 2: Ms Annemarie Egan, Immunisation Research Nurse, NCIRS
Male speaker: Prof Peter McIntyre, Director NCIRS

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Antonia Kidman: For a lot of people, the first decision is whether or not to have children, and once you are expecting the decisions just keep coming. Where to have the baby, what to name the baby, how to feed the baby. And it never stops. Choice of stroller, choice of playgroup, choice of school.

But if it's anything to do with the health of your child, you really want to get it right.

A very important decision we have to make for our children concerns immunisation, and that's an area where I wanted to get as much information as possible.

Where did you get your information from?

Father: I got most of my information from the early childhood centre we were attending.

They gave us a list of the immunisations that you needed, when they needed to be done, and we just followed that list.

Mother: I got my information from the hospital when we first had our first child, from local libraries and the early childhood centre and from playgroup.

Mother: The local GP. I was given information about immunisation, and then I guess when the time came to make the actual decision I did a bit of online research as well.

Antonia Kidman: I thought I should talk to the experts, and I started by asking them about the science behind immunisation. What is actually in the vaccines, and why and how do they work?

Female Speaker 1: What is included in vaccines is usually components of either bacteria or viruses, and sometimes whole viruses will be included in vaccine, but they're modified to be safer.

Male Speaker 1: Vaccines work by giving you immunity against the actual disease without developing the disease itself.

Female Speaker 2: If you like, tricking the body into believing that it's been exposed to the infectious disease.

Female Speaker 3: The body produces an immune response called antibodies. Without developing symptoms of the disease.
Vaccines work with the body's own immune system to equip us should we ever be exposed to the disease.

Male Speaker 1: So we want protection without all the downsides of complications and problems from infections.

Antonia Kidman: Immunisation, vaccination, inoculation. It's been around for a long time, and there's no doubt that it works - because some things that used to be common place just aren't problems any more. But you do rather think that with those terrible diseases under control, with better diet and living standards, perhaps immunisation isn't as important nowadays. Well I thought that might be the case - so I asked.

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Male Speaker 1: Although things may look good now, if we stop vaccinating, if we drop our guard, they can very easily come back. We've had examples of countries that have stopped vaccinating against whooping cough and have had large whooping cough epidemics.

Female Speaker 1: It has had a significant impact in the elimination of some diseases. Also we've seen significant decline in many important diseases that have carried a very high risk of mortality in childhood such as measles.

Female Speaker 2: It really doesn't matter if, you know, your… you have good nutrition and you have a good standard of health, because everybody is vulnerable.

Antonia Kidman: So the science and the medicine say yes, our children still need to be protected by immunisation. Then I was surprised by how many diseases the National Immunisation Program - which is funded by all the governments in Australia - actually protects against.

Father: I wasn't really aware of all the diseases, but I was aware of some of the main ones.

Mother: There's so many more diseases than I realised, and particularly with each child there seems to be even more immunisations coming in that are available now.

Antonia Kidman: What I wanted to ask was whether each of these diseases are really that serious.

Male Speaker 1: If all children get measles, that's a lot of children getting nasty brain infections - or dying.

The same with chicken pox.

There are children, all the time, hospitalised with chicken pox. And there are deaths from chicken pox. And you don't know if your child's going to be one of those ones that gets really bad chicken pox - or gets run of the mill chicken pox.

Female Speaker 1: Meningitis can be a devastating illness, and again it doesn't always kill a child but it may leave them with long-term deficits, for example hearing impairment or intellectual impairment.

Antonia Kidman: Timing I suppose is something we have to be aware of.
Are there circumstances where immunisation should be delayed?

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Male Speaker 1: Some people have the feeling that, you know, children are vulnerable, and maybe can't cope with vaccines so well when they're little. And so you should wait until they're stronger and bigger. But in fact that's dead wrong, because if you get the diseases when you are younger, then they often are more severe.

Female Speaker 1: One of the important reasons to not give an immunisation at any point in time may be if the child is acutely unwell with an infection where they've got a high fever.

Female Speaker 2: Whilst there are some valid reasons for delaying immunisation, it is still safe to vaccinate babies if they have minor illnesses such as the child having a bit of a runny nose, the child having a rash. The child has a chronic illness.

The schedule for childhood immunisation has been very carefully worked out to ensure the most effective protection. So it's very important that the recommended timing be followed.

Antonia Kidman: What a parent does worry about, of course, what all of us have thought about I'm sure, is side-effects and bad reactions.

Mother: They didn't really have much of a reaction other than some redness around the site of the needle.

Father: My daughter didn't react to the immunisations at all actually. In fact, she didn't even cry when she was given the needle. So yeah it was pretty smooth sailing.

Antonia Kidman: Bad reactions to immunisation are probably a parent's biggest worry, so again I wanted the facts.

Female Speaker 2: No vaccine or indeed or indeed medicine is without some side-effects. We're fortunate with vaccination that the majority of the side-effects that we see are very mild.

Female Speaker 3: [Indistinct] may take the form of a mild fever which is usually quite temporary and can be treated with paracetamol.

Female Speaker 2: In some cases a local reaction, but with local reactions, they're actually more of a problem to the parent who has to look at them than they are to the child who, you know, just gets on with their swimming lessons or their cutting and pasting; whatever they're doing at pre-school.

Male Speaker 1: The while story with immunisation I guess is not trying to say there are no risks, but saying those risks are very low compared to the risk of the disease and of course the benefits of immunisation and the protection that it gives, far, far outweigh those risks.

Antonia Kidman: Parents may not always understand why children sometimes need a series of immunisations of the one vaccine. And they may also want to know whether vaccines work for all children. Two more questions I wanted to ask the experts.

Female speaker 1: Immunity from vaccination may not be life long. So what you may find is that children will have waning immunity over time. So there's a concept of a booster does that needs to be given to maintain the immunity against that disease.

Female Speaker 3: In other words we're reminding the immune system that is has been vaccinated against these diseases and should it encounter them now, for example 10 or 20 years later, they have been vaccinated and it's time to produce the protection again.

Immunisation is not 100 per cent effect, best case scenario; it's 95 per cent effective. For example, the measles vaccine, if given to 100 people, five per cent will remain un-immune. And this is why we give a second dose of measles, mumps, rubella vaccine to children before they enter primary school.

Antonia Kidman: And of course, what about if you don't get your child immunised. You do read about some people who advocate letting children develop natural immunity. Well I wanted to know whether that was an option.

Female Speaker 2: The consequences of deciding not to vaccinate your child are very grave and you know, should be very seriously considered by a parent. They are running the risk of allowing their children to develop these diseases.

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Male Speaker 1: These infections are nasty. They can cause either serious illness, or in some cases, death or long-term handicap.

Female Speaker 1: It's a highly risky strategy. All well and good if a child has a very mild episode of that illness. But if you think about a disease such as measles that can result, for example, encephalopathy or brain disease, that may leave that child with permanent developmental problems.

Antonia Kidman: My final question I suppose was back to thinking about the science. Is it possible for immunisation to overload a child's immune system?

Female Speaker 2: There's no better time vaccinate than a very young infant. The immune system is ready to receive it. And because it hasn't experienced it before, it's less likely to have side-effects.

Male Speaker 1: And they have no problem responding to all the vaccines they're given and in fact potentially many more.

Antonia Kidman: Fortunately there is a lot of good information available concerning immunisation and it will help you to make an informed decision.

So do talk to the clinic or to your health professional, get informed, then you can focus on all the other important decisions that we as parents have to make.

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