Vaccination is recommended for everyone through their lives. It protects you, your family and your community. It also helps protect future generations by reducing or even completely wiping out diseases.
What do vaccines do?
Vaccines stimulate your immune system to produce antibodies to a particular disease, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease. You develop immunity to that disease, but you don't have to get sick first. This is what makes vaccines such a powerful medicine. Read more about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases.
Some people in our community can't be vaccinated. This might be because they are too young or too sick. You can help protect these vulnerable people by keeping your and your family’s vaccinations up to date. When enough people in the community are vaccinated, the spread of a disease slows down or stops completely. If enough people are vaccinated, the disease can't spread. This is called herd immunity.
Who needs to be vaccinated and when?
Vaccines help protect you from serious infectious diseases throughout your life – from infancy to early adulthood and into old age. Vaccines are recommended to be given at the ages when they will be most helpful.
|Ages and stages|
|Why vaccinate babies and children?
Newborn babies are immune to many diseases because they have antibodies from their mothers. However, this immunity goes away during their first year of life. This means they need to be vaccinated against diseases they might catch.
|Do older people need to be vaccinated?
As you get older, protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off. Also, your immune system tends to weaken over time, putting you at higher risk of certain infectious diseases. Free vaccination is offered for people from 65 years old onwards to protect you against serious diseases such as influenza, shingles, tetanus and diphtheria. Read more about immunisation for older adults.
|Why do pregnant women need to be vaccinated?
During pregnancy, it is important you are protected against infections and illnesses that can be harmful to you and your baby. Some illnesses, such as the flu, are especially dangerous for pregnant women. Some illnesses such as whooping cough are especially dangerous for newborn babies who may catch the infection from their mothers. Vaccination is an effective way to protect yourself and your baby.
Who else needs to be vaccinated?
Some people who are at an increased risk for certain diseases may need additional vaccines.
|Groups at higher risk for certain diseases|
|People with long-term health problems
|Healthcare workers and other employees who have contact with lots of people
|Are you traveling overseas?
|Gay or bisexual men
Are there any risks to vaccination?
There is a small risk of a reaction to having a vaccination, especially if you are allergic to animal proteins such as eggs, antibiotics, stabilisers or preservatives. In rare cases, this can be severe or (very rarely) fatal.
- This is why people are asked to wait 20 minutes after receiving some vaccines, so that there is someone to help if you have a reaction.
- However, the benefits of being vaccinated outweigh the risks. You are much more likely to get ill from an infectious disease, such as measles, tetanus or diphtheria, than you are to get sick from a vaccine.
- It makes sense to protect your health and wellbeing by getting the recommended vaccinations. Read more about vaccine safety and making an informed decision.
Immunisation - getting good information and making decisions The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
What if ... I delay or decline immunisation The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
The facts about childhood vaccines The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, US
New Zealand National Immunisation Schedule from 1 April 2018 The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ, 2018
Resources The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
|Dr Jonathan Kennedy is a senior lecturer in the Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice at the University of Otago, Wellington, a general practitioner in Newtown, Wellington, and a Medical Officer at Regional Public Health, the Wellington region public health unit. He has a special interest in the primary health care needs of refugee and migrant arrivals to New Zealand. He graduated with an MBChB (Otago) in 1997 and subsequently completed postgraduate diplomas in Obstetrics, Paediatrics and Public Health. He has been a fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners since 2007.|