Below you'll find answers to a number of frequently asked questions regarding immunisation.
Why is it important to immunise my child?
Immunisation helps our children avoid many diseases that can seriously harm them. When a child is immunised, the vaccines teach their immune system to respond to parts of germs that aren’t dangerous, or to weakened or inactive viruses that can’t cause disease. After immunisation, the immune system can generate specialised cells to fight the infection if they are exposed to the disease, preventing them from getting sick.
Some parents focus more on the (rare) side effects of immunisation, rather than on the diseases that immunisation protects against. The risk of serious side effects from immunisation is very low, compared to the risk of complications or death, should a child contract one of the vaccine-preventable diseases.
Immunisation is an important way to actively protect your child from these dangerous diseases.
How well does immunisation work?
Immunisation works very well to prevent a wide range of serious diseases. Sometimes, immunisation isn’t completely successful and it doesn’t protect children completely. In cases like this, children can get the disease, but don’t get as sick as they would if they weren’t immunised. While vaccines can’t provide 100 percent protection to all people, the more people that are immunised, the less the diseases will spread through the population. The people who are protected against the disease can protect the people who aren’t by reducing their risk of exposure to the germs.
Why does New Zealand start immunisation at six weeks of age?
New Zealand brought forward the first dose of the Childhood Immunisation Schedule from three months of age to six weeks of age in 1984. This followed an outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis), which affected those under three months old most severely. With immunisation delivered earlier, infants could start developing pertussis protection sooner. Many countries start their immunisation schedule at four weeks of age but New Zealand starts at six weeks of age to coincide with the six week post-natal check for both mothers and babies.
Why immunise on time?
Young infants in particular are at risk of serious complications from some diseases such as whooping cough, pneumococcal disease and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib disease). Starting immunisation at six weeks old begins to provide protection during the most vulnerable periods of childhood. Delaying or missing immunisations increases the risk of getting a disease and reduces the protection when it’s needed most.
Whanganui DHB runs two school-based immunisation programmes - Boostrix (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) for Year 7 students, and HPV (human papillomavirus) - or cervical cancer vaccinations for Year 8 girls.