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The answers are grouped in categories to make your search easier. For further information, please speak to your doctor.

General Questions

  • You may experience some side effects after immunisation. Most are mild, short-lived and clear within a few days.

    Common side effects can include:

    • a sore arm
    • fever
    • pain and redness at the injection site.

    Severe side effects like an allergic reaction are rare. If you think you are experiencing a severe reaction, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

    Remember, vaccines help to protect against potentially serious and fatal diseases. If you have any concerns about the side effects of vaccines, please speak to your doctor.

  • In Australia, immunisation is not compulsory but not having your child fully vaccinated may affect Government benefits or enrolment in childcare or kindergarten. Immunisation is strongly recommended for two reasons:

    • it helps protect your child or yourself from potentially serious diseases
    • high rates of immunisation also help protect those who cannot be immunised (for example, those with a weakened immune system).

    Speak to your doctor for more information.

  • The NIP is a schedule of vaccines that are provided for free by the Australian government, to help protect against 17 different diseases.

    Many of the vaccines are given in early childhood and others through to adulthood. It’s recommended that you stick as closely as possible to the NIP schedule to get the most benefit from the program.

  • Vaccines generally contain dead, severely weakened forms or specific parts of the germ that causes disease. They are designed to teach your immune system to fight any future infections.

    When the vaccine enters your body – either via a needle or oral dose – your immune system gets to work and produces antibodies that are able lock onto and destroy the germ. Your immune system is then able to remember the germ and produce those antibodies to destroy it if you get infected again.

    In short, vaccines strengthen and train your immune system to help protect you against harmful diseases.

  • Vaccines are given for potentially serious and fatal diseases that were common in Australia before immunisation was available. The germs that cause these diseases are still around – yet, thanks to high rates of immunisation in the community, most of these diseases are fortunately very rare. Continuing immunisation is important to keep it that way.

    Don’t forget, in some countries, these vaccine-preventable diseases are still common and can be brought into Australia by travellers.

Pregnancy or Planning for a baby

  • Before you become pregnant, it’s recommended that you are immunised against:

    • chickenpox
    • hepatitis B
    • measles
    • mumps
    • rubella (German measles)
    • annual influenza (flu)
    • pneumococcal disease (in some cases).

    You may already have immunity to some or all of the above diseases. With some vaccines you should not fall pregnant within 28 days following immunisation. Speak to your doctor as soon as possible to find out if you need any immunisations before trying for a baby.

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended when planning a pregnancy, please see our planning a baby section.

  • Your immunity against some diseases (like whooping cough) decreases as you get older – in which case you may need a booster dose.

    Also, you may not have received all your vaccines or vaccine doses during childhood, which means you may not be protected against some diseases.

    If you’re at all unsure, speak to your doctor about your immunisation history.

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended when planning a pregnancy or during pregnancy, please see our planning a baby or pregnancy section.

  • In the first years of life, babies are more vulnerable to contracting diseases from the adults around them because their immune systems are not fully developed.

    To help protect your baby, your partner and any other adult who will be in close contact with your little one should speak to their doctor about recommended immunisations.

  • It depends on the immunisation. With some, you need to wait at least 28 days after the last vaccine dose before you become pregnant.

    With this in mind you should speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you are planning a pregnancy.

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended when planning a pregnancy, please see our planning a baby section.

  • When you are vaccinated for whooping cough and the flu during pregnancy, your antibodies transfer from you to your unborn baby. These antibodies help protect your baby after birth for only a short time, when they are too young to be vaccinated themselves. This immunity usually wears off eventually which is why babies also need immunisations.

    In the case of whooping cough, the first dose for babies is generally given at 2 months. For the flu, the first dose is recommended at 6 months. Before this time, if you did not receive a vaccine during pregnancy, they can be more vulnerable to these serious diseases.

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended during pregnancy, please see our pregnancy section.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with your doctor.

Babies, toddlers & children

  • A baby’s immune system is not fully developed, making them more vulnerable to some diseases.

    Vaccines help to protect babies by preparing their immune system to be ready to attack and fight off specific infections.

  • From birth onwards, babies are naturally exposed to thousands of bacteria, viruses and antigens (which are substances that stimulate an immune response). They build up their exposure through things like playing, drinking and eating.

    Compared to this everyday exposure, immunisations contain a small amount of antigen. So rather than overwhelming the baby’s immune system, immunisations actually help strengthen it for specific diseases.

  • The antibodies in breast milk help fight off infection and provide some protection for your baby. However, they are short-lived and are not enough to help protect against all infections – which is why it’s recommended that all babies receive the vaccines on the National Immunisation Program schedule, regardless of whether they are breastfed or not.

  • Immunising your child from an early age, at the ages recommended by the National Immunisation Program can help protect them from serious childhood infections.

    Delaying an immunisation increases the amount of time your child is at risk of catching a disease. Don’t forget, for some diseases, multiple doses of the vaccine are required before your child is adequately protected. Until all the doses are given, your child may be at risk of catching the disease.

  • It's important for your child to receive all the recommended doses. With some diseases, the level of protection provided by an immunisation can decrease over time. Booster doses are recommended to help maintain immunity.

    Talk to your doctor or nurse if you’re unsure whether your child is up-to-date with their immunisation.

  • Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease – although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.

    Don’t forget, the chances of exposure to a disease are reduced in communities where most people are immunised.

  • A scheduled immunisation may be delayed if your child:

    • has a high temperature (over 38.5ºC)
    • has a weakened immune system (e.g. receiving chemotherapy)
    • has another medical condition that needs to be considered.

    Speak to your doctor about your child's circumstances before postponing immunisation.

Adolescents

  • With some diseases, the level of protection provided by an immunisation can decrease over time. So even if your teenager had all of their childhood immunisations, booster doses during adolescence may be recommended.

    Then, there are other diseases that your teenager would not have been immunised against yet – but that adolescents are at greater risk of catching (e.g. human papillomavirus).

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended for adolescents, please see our adolescents section.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with your doctor.

  • Adolescents generally require fewer immunisations than babies and younger children. This is because:

    • their immune systems are more developed
    • they should have received the recommended immunisations at a younger age
    • they may have been naturally infected with a disease and built up their own immunity.

    With teenagers, immunisations are aimed at:

    • providing booster doses for diseases for which immunity has decreased over time, such as whooping cough
    • providing initial doses for diseases that they are now at greater risk of catching, such as human papillomavirus.

    The number of immunisations recommended for adolescents will also depend on whether they are up-to-date with the immunisation schedule and whether they fall into certain risk groups. Your doctor will be able to advise you of which immunisations are appropriate for your teenager.

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended for adolescents, please see our adolescents section.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with your doctor.

  • If your teenager did not receive some or all of the recommended doses of immunisations when they were young, they might need what’s called a ‘catch-up dose(s)’. Catch-up doses may not be available for free as part of the National Immunisation Program.

    Speak with your doctor if you're unsure about your teenager's immunisation status.

Adults

  • Infectious diseases can affect anyone. It’s often recommended that adults get immunised. Generally, it’s when you fall into one of these categories:

    • Those with underlying medical risks or chronic illnesses
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
    • Women planning a pregnancy, pregnant women, or those who are becoming a new parent or carer
    • People born overseas
    • Certain age groups e.g. adults aged 65 years of age and over
    • Overseas travellers
    • Certain lifestyles e.g. men who have sex with men, those who take recreational drugs
    • Work environments e.g. working closely with infants and children, healthcare workers.

    This is not a complete list. Your doctor can talk to you about your risk of vaccine-preventable diseases and will be able to advise if you should be immunised.

  • Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease - although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.

    Don’t forget, the chances of exposure to a disease are reduced in communities where most people are immunised.

  • As we get older, our immune system becomes less effective and can become more vulnerable to certain diseases such as influenza (flu), pneumococcal disease and shingles. Immunisation against certain diseases is recommended if you're over 65 years of age, even if you're otherwise healthy.

    To find out more about which immunisations are recommended for adults aged 65 and over please see our 65 years and over section.

    With some other diseases (like tetanus and whooping cough), your immunity can decrease over time. Speak to your doctor about whether you may need a booster immunisation for such diseases.

Travellers

  • Immunisations for some vaccine-preventable diseases are not routinely funded on the National Immunisation Program (that is, they are not available for free). Yet they may still be recommended for overseas travel, particularly to developing countries.

    The immunisations you may need depend on where you’re going. To learn about diseases common in particular countries, you can browse our travel section. Please note that this is a guide only.

    Remember, our travel map is only a guide. It’s important to speak to your doctor or visit a travel clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel. Take along your full itinerary – including areas that might be 'off the beaten track' – so your doctor can best assess your needs.

  • There are many factors that need to be considered by you and your doctor when working out which immunisations and/or malaria medication you may need before you travel.

    To learn about diseases common in particular countries, you can browse our travel section. Please note that this is a guide only. It’s important that you speak to your doctor or visit a travel clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel. Take along your full itinerary – including areas that might be 'off the beaten track' – so your doctor can best assess your needs.

  • Some common diseases (such as hepatitis A, typhoid and traveller’s diarrhoea) can be caught if you consume contaminated water or food, or if you come into direct contact with an infected person. If you are travelling to a place with poor food hygiene, you should take care to avoid potentially contaminated food and water.

    Some recommendations include:

    • only drink and use safe, clean water (e.g. sealed bottled water or boiled water), even for things like brushing teeth
    • don’t put ice in drinks unless you know it’s from safe water
    • wash hands often using soap and safe, clean water
    • avoid eating food kept at room temperature for several hours
    • avoid uncooked food, including salads and fruit that cannot be peeled, and seafood
    • thoroughly boil or cook food.

    An easy way to remember it: if you can’t boil it, cook it or peel it, forget it.

    To learn about diseases common in particular countries, you can browse our travel section. Please note that this is a guide only. Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with your doctor.

  • For travellers, most cases of malaria infection occur when medication is not taken as prescribed and measures to avoid mosquito bites (such as using repellents or insecticide-treated bed nets) have not been taken. You can give yourself more protection against malaria by doing both – that is, taking anti-malarials and doing what you can to prevent mosquito bites.

    When anti-malarials are taken as recommended, and mosquito bite prevention measures are put in place, both the risk of contracting disease and the risk of serious disease is reduced.

    To learn about diseases common in particular countries, you can browse our travel section. Please note that this is a guide only. Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with your doctor.

AUS/VAC/0102/18 Date of Approval: November 2018