Health & SafetyImmunisation
Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases before they come into contact with them in the community. Immunisation not only protects individuals, but also others in the community, by reducing the spread of disease.
Immunisation is the most significant public health intervention in the last 200 years, providing a safe and efficient way to prevent the spread of many diseases that cause hospitalisation, serious ongoing health conditions and sometimes death.
Since the introduction of vaccination for children in Australia in 1932, deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases have fallen by 99 per cent, despite a threefold increase in the Australian population over that period. Before the major vaccination campaigns of the 1960s and ’70s, diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis) killed thousands of young children each year. Worldwide, it has been estimated that immunisation programmes prevent approximately three million deaths each year.
Immunisation is critical for the health of children and the wider community. For immunisation to provide the greatest benefit, a sufficient number of people need to be vaccinated to halt the spread of bacteria and viruses that cause disease – this is called ‘herd immunity’. The proportion of the population that has to be immune to interrupt disease transmission differs for each vaccine preventable disease, but is around 95 per cent of the population. With 100,000 babies born in NSW annually, it’s important to stay vigilant and ensure high coverage rates are achieved, not only at the state level, but also at the local level.
In NSW, immunisation coverage rates for children are high, with close to 95 per cent of children fully immunised . This high rate of immunisation helps to maintain community immunity, especially for those who are too young to be immunised or those that are not able to be immunised for medical reasons. Without herd immunity, rare diseases could become common again, causing more illness and deaths.
Immunisation is one of the best ways to protect yourself, your children and safeguard the health of future generations.
How immunisation works
Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism – the immune response – to build resistance to specific infections. When a person is vaccinated, their body produces an immune response in the same way their body would after exposure to a disease, but without the person suffering symptoms of the disease. When a person comes in contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will respond fast enough to prevent the person developing the disease or greatly reducing its severity.
- Vaccination is the best way to protect your child from serious disease.
- By vaccinating you are protecting your child as well as the broader community.
- The more people who vaccinate their children, the greater our ability to control serious vaccine preventable diseases.
Vaccinating on time
Vaccines provide the best protection if they are completed on time. The National Immunisation Schedule has been carefully developed to provide children with the earliest possible protection against 13 vaccine preventable diseases. This is particularly true for babies in the first six months of life who are very vulnerable as their immune system is still developing. If children are vaccinated later than the recommended milestones, then they will be unprotected and therefore be at risk of illness or death themselves and of further spreading disease in the community. Delaying vaccination when your little one is feeling off colour is a normal response. But the truth is, even if they have a runny nose or slight cold they can still receive their shot. Timely vaccination is the best way to protect your child from serious diseases.
Vaccines are safe and effective. The benefits of immunisation far outweigh any risks. However, like other medicines, a vaccine can sometimes cause side effects. These are usually mild and short-lasting and involve pain, swelling and redness at the injection site. Serious side effects are very rare. If you have any concerns about possible side effects, speak to your GP or immunisation service provider.
You will need to provide records of your child’s immunisations for child care, preschool and for school enrolment. Contact the Australian Immunisation Register on 1800 653 809 to obtain an Immunisation History Statement.
Where to vaccinate
Vaccinations are provided by:
- Aboriginal Medical Services
- Some local councils
- Some community health centres
If you are unsure about what services are available in your area, you can contact your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.