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The answers are grouped in categories to make your search easier. For further information, please speak to a healthcare professional.

General Questions

  • What are the common side effects of immunisations?

    You may experience some side effects after immunisation. Most are mild, short-lived and clear within a few days.

    Common side effects can include:

    • a sore arm
    • fever
    • pain and redness at the injection site.

    Severe side effects like an allergic reaction are rare. If you think you are experiencing a severe reaction, you should see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

    If you have any concerns about the side effects of vaccines, please speak to a healthcare professional.

  • Is immunisation compulsory?

    In Australia, immunisation is not compulsory but not having your child fully vaccinated may affect Government benefits or enrolment in childcare or kindergarten.

    Immunisations can help by:

    • helping to protect your child or yourself from infectious diseases
    • helping to protect those who cannot be immunised (for example those with a weakened immune system)

    Speak to a healthcare professional for more information.

  • What is the National Immunisation Program (NIP)?

    The NIP is a schedule of vaccines that are provided for free by the Australian Government, to help protect against a range of different diseases.

    Many of the vaccines are given in early childhood and others through to adulthood.

  • How do vaccines work?

    Vaccines generally contain dead, severely weakened forms or specific parts of the germ that causes disease. They are designed to teach your immune system to fight any future infections.

    When the vaccine enters your body – either via a needle or oral dose – your immune system gets to work and produces antibodies that are able lock onto and destroy the germ. Your immune system is then able to remember the germ and produce those antibodies to destroy it if you are exposed to the disease later in your life.

    In short, vaccines strengthen and train your immune system to help protect you against harmful diseases.

  • Why immunise for less common or old diseases?

    Vaccines are given for potentially serious and fatal diseases that were common in Australia before immunisation was available. The germs that cause these diseases are still around – yet, thanks to high rates of immunisation in the community, most of these diseases are fortunately very rare.

    Don’t forget, in some countries, vaccine-preventable diseases are still common and can be brought into Australia by travellers.

Pregnancy or Planning for a baby

  • What diseases do I need to be aware of if I'm planning for pregnancy?

    You may already have immunity to some infectious diseases. Before you become pregnant, there are recommendations for certain vaccines. With some vaccines you should not fall pregnant within 28 days following immunisation.

    Please speak with a healthcare professional for more information before trying for a baby.

  • Will my own immunity cover me during pregnancy?

    Your immunity against some diseases (like whooping cough) decreases as you get older – in which case you may need a booster dose.

    Also, you may not have received all your vaccines or vaccine doses during childhood, which means you may not be fully protected against some diseases.

    If you’re at all unsure, speak to a healthcare professional for more information.

  • Should my partner be immunised before I become pregnant?

    In the first years of life, babies are more vulnerable to contracting diseases from the adults around them because their immune systems are not fully developed.

    Please speak to a healthcare professional for more information about how to help protect your family.

  • After being immunised, do I need to wait before becoming pregnant?

    It depends on the immunisation. With some, you need to wait at least 28 days after the last vaccine dose before you become pregnant.

    With this in mind you should speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible if you are planning a pregnancy.

  • I received certain vaccines during my pregnancy. Why does my baby need them too?

    When you are vaccinated, your antibodies transfer from you to your unborn baby. These antibodies help protect your baby after birth for only a short time, when they are too young to be vaccinated themselves. This immunity usually wears off eventually which is why babies also need immunisations.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

Babies, toddlers & children

  • Why do babies need to be immunised?

    A baby’s immune system is not fully developed, making them more vulnerable to some diseases.

    Vaccines help to protect babies by preparing their immune system to be ready to attack and fight off specific infections.

  • Can too many immunisations overwhelm a baby’s immune system?

    From birth onwards, babies are naturally exposed to thousands of bacteria, viruses and antigens (which are substances that stimulate an immune response). They build up their exposure through things like playing, drinking and eating.

    Compared to this everyday exposure, immunisations contain a small amount of antigen. So rather than overwhelming the baby’s immune system, immunisations actually help strengthen it for specific diseases.

  • Do breastfed babies obtain immunity from breast milk?

    The antibodies in breast milk help fight off infection and provide some protection for your baby. However, they are short-lived and are not enough to help protect against all infections.

    Please discuss your Individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • Can I delay immunisations until my child is older?

    Immunising your child at the ages recommended by the National Immunisation Program can help protect them from serious childhood infections.

    Delaying an immunisation increases the amount of time your child does not have the immune response provided by a vaccine and therefore may be at higher risk of catching a disease if it was in the community. For some diseases, multiple doses of the vaccine are required before your child is adequately protected. Until all the doses are given, your child may still be at a higher risk of catching the disease.

    Please discuss your Individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • Why do children need booster doses of some vaccines?

    It's important for your child to receive all the recommended doses. With some diseases, the level of protection provided by an immunisation can decrease over time. Booster doses are recommended to help maintain immunity.

    Please discuss your Individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • Can my child still get a disease despite being immunised for it?

    Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease – although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.

    Don’t forget, the chances of exposure to a disease are reduced in communities where most people are immunised as is the case in most of Australia.

  • Are there any reasons for delaying immunisations?

    A scheduled immunisation may be delayed if your child:

    • has a high temperature (over 38.5ºC)
    • has a weakened immune system (e.g. receiving chemotherapy)
    • has another medical condition that needs to be considered.

    Speak to a healthcare professional about your child's circumstances before postponing immunisation.

Adolescents

  • Do adolescents need to be immunised?

    Adolescents generally require fewer immunisations than babies and younger children. This is because:

    • their immune systems are more developed
    • they should have received the recommended immunisations at a younger age
    • they may have been naturally infected with a disease and built up their own immunity.

    Immunisations are aimed at:

    • providing booster doses for diseases for which immunity has decreased over time, such as whooping cough
    • providing initial doses for diseases that they are now at greater risk of catching, such as human papillomavirus.

    The number of immunisations suggested for adolescents will also depend on whether they are up-to-date with the immunisation schedule and whether they fall into certain risk groups. 

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • Do adolescents need to start the schedule again if they missed any childhood immunisations?

    If your teenager did not receive some or all of the recommended doses of immunisations when they were young, they might need what’s called a ‘catch-up dose(s)’. Catch-up doses may not be funded as part of the National Immunisation Program.

    Speak with a healthcare professional if you're unsure about your teenager's immunisation status.

Adults

  • Why do adults need to be immunised?

    Infectious diseases can affect anyone. Generally, it’s when you fall into one of these categories:

    • Those with underlying medical risks or chronic illnesses
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
    • Women planning a pregnancy, pregnant women, or those who are becoming a new parent or carer
    • People born overseas
    • Certain age groups e.g. adults aged 65 years and over
    • Overseas travellers
    • Certain lifestyles e.g. men who have sex with men, those who take recreational drugs
    • Work environments e.g. working closely with infants and children, healthcare workers.

    This is not a complete list. Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • Can I still get a disease despite being immunised for it?

    Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease - although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.

    Don’t forget, the chances of exposure to a disease are reduced in communities where most people are immunised as is the case in most of Australia.

  • If I’m over 50 years of age and don’t have any chronic illnesses, do I still need to be immunised?

    As we get older, our immune system becomes less effective and can become more vulnerable to certain diseases such as influenza (flu), pneumococcal disease, pertussis and shingles, even if you're otherwise healthy.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

Travellers

  • I’m going overseas soon. Do I need to see my doctor?

    The more prepared you are, the safer and more enjoyable your overseas trip will be.

    Some parts of the world are more prone to certain diseases than others but many of these diseases and infections could be prevented.

    It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health. Take along your full itinerary so a healthcare professional can best assess your needs.

  • When travelling, can I eat the local food and is the water safe to drink?

    Some common diseases (such as hepatitis A, typhoid and traveller’s diarrhoea) can be caught if you consume contaminated water or food, or if you come into direct contact with an infected person. If you are travelling to a place with poor food hygiene, you should take care to avoid potentially contaminated food and water.

    Some recommendations include:

    • only drink and use safe, clean water (e.g. sealed bottled water or boiled water), even for things like brushing teeth
    • don’t put ice in drinks unless you know it’s from safe water
    • wash hands often using soap and safe, clean water
    • avoid eating food kept at room temperature for several hours
    • avoid uncooked food, including salads and fruit that cannot be peeled, and seafood
    • thoroughly boil or cook food.

    An easy way to remember it: if you can’t boil it, cook it or peel it, forget it.

    To learn about diseases common in particular countries, you can browse our travel section. Please note that this is a guide only. Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • Why should I take anti-malarials if I’m taking measures to prevent mosquito bites?

    For travellers, most cases of malaria infection occur when medication is not taken as prescribed and measures to avoid mosquito bites (such as using repellents or insecticide-treated bed nets) have not been taken. You can give yourself more protection against malaria by doing both – that is, taking anti-malarials and doing what you can to prevent mosquito bites.

    When anti-malarials are taken as recommended, and mosquito bite prevention measures are put in place, both the risk of contracting disease and the risk of serious disease is reduced.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190029 Date of GSK Approval: January 2021