About immunisation

Immunisation protects you, your family and others in the community from serious diseases. Learn about the benefits of immunisation and how vaccines work.

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides free vaccines against a number of diseases, to increase national immunisation rates and reduce vaccine preventable disease.

Benefits of immunisation

All diseases we vaccinate against can cause serious ongoing health conditions, and sometimes death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers immunisation to be the most effective medical intervention we have to prevent deaths and reduce disease in our communities. Immunisation programs prevent about 2.5 million deaths globally every year.

Immunisation protects you from a specific infectious disease and its immediate complications. Immunisation can also provide protection against long term complications from infections such as human papilloma virus which can lead to cancers and infection from the chickenpox virus, which can result in shingles later in life.

Herd immunity

When you get immunised, you’re not only protecting yourself, but also helping to protect the whole community.

Herd immunity, or community immunity, means there are enough people immunised in the community to slow or stop the spread of disease. If enough people in the community get immunised against a disease, the infection can no longer spread from person to person. The disease can die out altogether.

Herd immunity helps protect people who are more at risk of getting the disease. This includes people who are too young or too sick to get vaccinated. We need high immunisation rates, at about 95%, to achieve herd immunity for many infectious diseases.

See childhood vaccination rates

How immunisation works

Immunisation is the process of becoming immune to a disease as a result of a vaccine. Vaccination is when you receive a vaccine either by a needle or drops in the mouth.

Vaccines work by producing an immune response in the body without causing illness.

Vaccines use dead or weakened viruses to trick our bodies into thinking we have already had the disease.

When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds to these weakened ‘invaders’ and creates antibodies to protect you against future infection. It has special ‘memory’ cells that remember and recognise specific germs or viruses.

Vaccines strengthen your immune system by training it to recognise and fight against specific germs.

When you come across that virus in the future, your immune system rapidly produces antibodies to destroy it. In some cases, you may still get a less serious form of the illness. Vaccines protect you from the more dangerous effects and helps you recover faster.

All vaccines given in Australia are carefully tested to ensure they are safe and effective. Find more information on Vaccine safety, testing and ingredients.

Natural immunity

Some people believe that natural immunity (when you get a disease and may become immune to it in the future) is better than immunity from vaccines.

The risks of natural immunity are much higher than risks of immunity provided by vaccines. Some highly contagious diseases can lead to severe complications, illness or even death. Vaccines create immunity without causing disease.

Learn more about When to get vaccinated.

More information

The Science of Immunisation

The Australian Academy of Science provides information about immunisation to help you make good health decisions based on science.

Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation

Sharing Knowledge About Immunisation (SKAI) aims to support conversations that community members have with healthcare professionals about vaccination to help you make a decision for you and your family.
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