Immunization is a simple, safe and effective way of protecting children against certain diseases. The risks of these diseases are far greater than the very small risks of immunization.
Immunization protects children (and adults) against harmful infections before they come into contact with them in the community.
It uses the body’s natural defense mechanism – the immune response – to build resistance to specific infections and helps children stay healthy by preventing serious infections.
Babies and children are to be immunized against the following diseases:
- haemophilus influenza type B (Hib)
- hepatitis B
- meningococcal C
- pneumococcal infection
- poliomyelitis (polio)
- rotavirus (for babies under six months)
- whooping cough.
Children can also have the flu vaccine each year, which is available in autumn. Children aged 12 to 13 should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) through their schools.
Most vaccines recommended in the program are given by injection. Some combine several vaccines in the one injection.
Learn more about the difference between vaccination and immunisation.
Why do children get so many immunisations?
A number of immunisations are required in the first few years of a child’s life to protect the child against some of the most serious childhood infectious diseases. The immune system in young children does not work as well as the immune system in older children and adults, because it is still immature. Therefore more doses of the vaccine are needed.
In the first months of life, a baby is protected from most infectious diseases by antibodies from their mother which are transferred to the baby during pregnancy. When these antibodies wear off, the baby is at risk of serious infections and so the first immunisations are given before these antibodies have gone.
Another reason children get many immunisations is that new vaccines against serious infections continue to be developed. The number of injections is reduced by the use of combination vaccines, where several vaccines are combined into one injection.
Where you can have your child immunised
Immunisations can be provided by your doctor, immunisation clinics, local councils, community child health nurses and some hospitals.
What are the side effects of immunisation?
Many children get minor side effects such as redness, soreness and swelling at the injection site, mild fever, and being irritable or unsettled. If your child has any of these side effects, give them extra fluids to drink, don’t overdress them if they feel hot and consider giving them paracetamol to help ease any fever or soreness.
Most side effects are short-lasting and the child recovers without any problems.
Serious reactions to vaccinations are very rare. However, if they do occur, take your child to the doctor immediately.