What is immunisation

Immunisation is a simple and effective way of protecting children and adults against certain diseases. It not only protects individuals, but also others in our community by increasing the level of immunity and minimising the spread of disease. Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism – the immune response – to build resistance to infectious diseases. Immunisation helps people stay healthy by preventing serious infections.

Young children, particularly babies, do not have the well-developed immune system that older children and adults have.  Most vaccinations need to be given several times to build long lasting protection – this is why it is important for children to complete the full recommended schedule of vaccinations at the recommended times. Sometimes it is possible to ‘catch up’ if the vaccinations are not given on time. However, some immunisations like the rotavirus vaccine can not be given later than the recommended time. Not getting the full course of vaccinations can leave a child unprotected and still at risk of getting the disease.

Whooping cough vaccine now available free for pregnant women in their third trimester. For more information see Whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women page.

Although many diseases are not as common as they were in the past, it is still vitally important for children and adults to be vaccinated to help ensure we do not experience serious disease outbreaks.

Some people have special vaccination requirements. If you identify with any of the following, you should talk to your doctor before being vaccinated. If you:

  • are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy
  • have previously had a serious adverse event following immunisation, or
  • have impaired immunity due to disease or treatment.

What to know before getting immunised

Your doctor or immunisation provider should discuss vaccine safety information (PDF 119KB) before you consent (PDF 671KB) to being vaccinated. This includes discussing the:

  • effects of the disease
  • possible side effects of vaccination
  • what to do to reduce the side effects.

They will also ask you if you are unwell, pregnant, have any allergies or have previously had any reactions following any other vaccines as in some instances immunisation may need to be deferred or further medical assistance may be needed.

Where to get vaccinated

Not sure where to go to get vaccinated? See the Immunisation services page for a list of organisations who provide immunisations to you or your child. 


Vaccines recommended for children and adults on the National Immunisation Program are available at no cost to people listed on a Medicare card.

Other vaccines may be recommended, but not free to other groups, for example, the vaccines recommended for specific occupations or prior to travel overseas.

Vaccine side effects

Vaccines, like any medication can have side effects. Most vaccines can cause mild reactions. If the reaction seems severe or persists and you are concerned, contact your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section.

Immunisation registers

Australian Childhood Immunisation Register

The Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (the Immunisation Register) is a national immunisation register that records details of vaccinations given to children under seven years of age who live in Australia. When your child is vaccinated, your doctor or immunisation nurse sends the vaccination information to the Immunisation Register.

If you have misplaced your child's vaccination details, you can contact the Immunisation Register and request a copy.

For more information about the Immunisation Register, see the the Medicare Australia website.

National HPV Vaccination Program Register

A National HPV Vaccination Program Register (HPV Register) collects information of individuals vaccinated against Human papillomavirus (HPV) to evaluate the impact of HPV Vaccination Program. Letters are sent to males and females advising that their vaccine course is:

  • incomplete and further vaccines will be required to complete the course or
  • complete.

For more information go to the National HPV Vaccination Program Register website.

Further information

For more information about immunisations, contact your doctor, immunisation provider or SA Health's Immunisation Section.

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