Why it's important to vaccinate on time

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My son was born on the 1 July 2014. It's a fabulous birthday, don't you think? Not only does the first of July ring in a new financial year, but it also means we've hit the year's half way mark.

The only problem is that it's a terrible birthday when it comes to vaccinations. In the lead up to Christmas for the past two years, while everyone else has been madly rushing around the shops, I've been ringing around doctor's surgeries to find out who opens soonest after New Year's Day. You see, my son's six-month and 18-month vaccinations have both fallen on the first of January.

You might be mistaken for thinking that it would have been okay if I just waited until the holiday season was over and got him vaccinated a couple of weeks late. But when my son was just a few weeks old, a wise doctor advised me that vaccinations are most effective when they are delivered on time. And here are the reasons why.

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 Photo: Getty Images

Letting time lapse jeopardises immunity

If you let time lapse between the recommended intervals then your child won't be adequately protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough. This is because the immunisation schedule is carefully designed to optimise your child's immunity at the earliest time their body is ready. It could actually be life-saving to vaccinate closest to the dates in your baby's immunisation schedule.

Rotavirus can only be given at specific ages

Did you know the rotavirus vaccination is only recommended for children up to six months of age? This means there's only a small window for the two vaccine doses to be given. In NSW it is given at 6 weeks and 4 months of age.

If your child has missed a vaccination, or you are running too far behind schedule, you may actually miss the opportunity to immunise your child against rotavirus.

And it's not just the rotavirus vaccine that has a window for immunisation: many of the vaccinations have a minimum and/or maximum age when the vaccine can be given. That's why sticking to the recommended schedule is so important; each vaccination plays its part in keeping your child protected.

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If you are running behind the recommended schedule, it's best to speak to your doctor about a catch-up schedule.

Not every vaccination is the same

Late last year a baby in the nursery room at my son's daycare contracted chicken pox from a family member. When the director of the centre called me to advise of the situation, I replied, "Oh it's fine. His vaccinations are up to date." She then explained that the vaccination for chicken pox isn't given until a child is 18 months old. So there you have it, another pretty damn good reason to vaccinate on time: at different intervals in the immunisation schedule, your child is vaccinated against different diseases.

But I do have a confession to make. I'm not this super organised mum who has a diary reminding me of important dates coming up. If it wasn't for my Save the Date to Vaccinate app, I'm not sure I would have stayed on top of my son's vaccinations with the success that I have.

Once you plug in your child's birth date, it will create your child's immunisation schedule. Then in the lead up to your child's next recommended vaccination date, the app will send you a reminder to book in a doctor's appointment. It will also send you a friendly reminder every day after the recommended vaccination date until you advise that the vaccinations are completed. It is basically your best friend when it comes to ensuring your child is vaccinated on time.

And while we are talking about vaccinating your child on time, there is one myth that should be cleared up. You shouldn't delay getting your child vaccinated because they are feeling unwell. NSW Health says while it is a perfectly normal response to want to delay vaccination, the truth is that even if they have a runny nose or slight cold they can still receive their shots.

So does it all make sense now, why I went to so much effort to ensure my son was vaccinated on time? As NSW Health say: "Timely vaccination is the best way to keep your child protected from serious vaccine-preventable diseases." So save the date to vaccinate.

Learn more at immunisation.health.nsw.gov.au.