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Vaccination, Picture: Sura Nualpradid, Fotolia

Extensions to the child vaccination programme

The Ministry of Health currently offers twelve free vaccinations for children. In 2012 the vaccination programme for children was extended by two free vaccinations. As of February 2014, the vaccine against HPV has been included as a fixed element in the free children's vaccination programme.

  • Pneumoccocal vaccination for all children born on or after 1. 9. 2011 based on the 2+1 schedule (after three, five and twelve months).
  • Children at risk can receive the free vaccine until their fifth birthday Meningococcal vaccine for all children aged 12. The vaccine is given once (quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccination A,C,Y, W135)
  • HPV for all children in year 4 of school (from the age of 9). In addition, the vaccine will be offered free at public vaccination clinics in the provinces and/or by doctors in private practice to children up to their twelfth birthday. The vaccine is given in two parts with a gap of at least six months in between.

Pneumococcus

Pneumococcus is a bacterium which can occur in the nose and throat area and cause blood poisoning, meningitis, pneumonia or middle ear infections. Pneumococcus is passed on by droplet infection. Every year, the national reference centre records more than 300 invasive illnesses caused by pneumococcus with a mortality rate of 7 percent. Permanent damage such as loss of hearing, poor general development in children and concentration problems are also frequent.

Meningococcus

Meningococcus is a bacterium which colonises the nose and throat and can trigger meningococcal meningitis and blood poisoning (meningococcal septicaemia). Meningococcus is passed on by droplet infection. Up to 100 serious cases of meningococcus infections occur each year, primarily among children and young people. Up to 13% of those affected die as a result of the infection. Survivors frequently suffer severe damage to their health.

HPV (human papilloma virus)

Human papilloma viruses (HPV) are a group of DNA viruses which infect human skin and mucus membrane cells and can cause benign wart-like changes to the skin (papillomas) as well as carcinomas. However, some HPV types (so-called high-risk types) are considered to cause the development of malignant tumours.

These include the types HPV 16 and HPV 18, which are mostly passed on by sexual intercourse. They cause a large part of cervical cancers, but also other forms of cancer, both in the genital and HNO areas. Cervical cancer is the second most frequent cancer worldwide and the third highest mortality risk among women.

The transmission of the human papilloma virus (HPV) only occurs via direct physical contact (e.g. sexual intercourse), whereby the virus can enter skin and mucus membrane cells via the tiniest scratches. Transmission occurs most frequently via sexual contact. The virus can also be passed on to a baby by its mother during birth.

The vaccination is offered free to all children living in Austria who are in the fourth year of school (i.e. are nine years old) as part of the existing school vaccination programme. Children are vaccinated at school, and in some provinces also at public vaccination clinics and by paediatricians in private practice. The vaccine is given in two injections with a minimum gap of six months in between. From February 2014 this vaccination has been included in the National Vaccination Concept.

Children aged between the ages of nine and eleven can receive the vaccination free of charge at the public vaccination clinics of the provinces. In addition, the provinces offer catch-up vaccinations at a reduced price for children up to the age of 15. The vaccines are given via an intramuscular injection. With the vaccine, empty virus cells are injected which provide long-lasting protection. In the case of an HPV infection, the virus is destroyed. The introduction of the free HPV vaccination does not replace the recommended cervical screening examinations with a Pap test or any necessary treatment.

Where can I have my child vaccinated?

Paediatricians or general practitioners in private practice (search for doctors) Public vaccination clinics of the provinces: District Health Offices, District Commission (Bezirkshauptmannschaft), Parental Advice Centres (Vaccination clinic information provided by the provinces) Health Centres of the social insurance institutions The meningococcus and HPV vaccines are offered as part of the school vaccination campaign.

Where can I obtain free vaccine ingredients?

If your doctor does not have his/her own in-surgery pharmacy, you can obtain the vaccine ingredients with the so-called vaccination cheque book or with vaccination vouchers free of charge in a pharmacy. Vaccine ingredients can also be obtained directly and free of charge from the official vaccination clinics and in the health facilities of the social insurance institutions.

General information on the children’s vaccination concept

The further development of vaccines in the 1990s led to increasing numbers of combination vaccines coming onto the market. However, the prices of these products were unaffordable for many parents. In 1997, Health Minister Lore Hostasch therefore introduced the vaccination concept with the clear goal of providing free access to all vaccinations which are important for the health of the population for all children living in Austria.

The total costs of the children’s vaccination programme have since been divided up in the following way: 2/3 by the federal government, 1/6 by the provinces and 1/6 by the social insurance institutions. Priority has been given to illnesses which occur very frequently, but also to rare illnesses which can have very serious consequences. An additional requirement was that children should be protected against these illnesses with as few injections as possible. The vaccines used for this purpose are re-evaluated continuously according to the latest medical findings.