Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program

Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program (HESA accredited) aims to equip health professionals with knowledge and skills to competently deliver a high quality and safe immunisation service by:

  • introducing the learner to comprehensive information on the theoretical and practical components of immunisation
  • guiding the learner to utilise the relevant resources that support best practice when delivering an immunisation service, and
  • assisting the learner to assess their understanding of the relevant information.

This course has been developed by immunisation and education experts from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB), Department for Health and Wellbeing, South Australia, WA Health and the Education and Training Department of the Women and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia.

Program applicants

This Program has been designed to provide an easily accessible high-quality immunisation education program for registered nurses and midwives seeking authorisation to possess and administer vaccines without a medical order. Registered nurses and midwives are required to be registered with AHPRA to access the Program. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals with an AHPRA number are strongly encouraged to enrol for the Program.

Additional health professionals with an AHPRA number are able to register for the Program, however, due to the comprehensive content and the robust assessments within the Program; they may wish to consider an alternate immunisation education program to meet their learning needs.

Register now for Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program (HESA accredited)

Certificate awarded

Health professionals who successfully complete and meet all course requirements will be awarded a Certificate of Completion.

State and Territory legislation governs whether this Certificate allows the health professional to immunise independent of a medical order. Please check the approved immunisation education programs in the jurisdiction you will be working in.

Accreditation and continuing professional development

Health Education Services Australia (HESA) Accreditation

Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program has been accredited against the National Immunisation Education Framework for Health Professionals by Health Education Services Australia (HESA) a subsidiary of the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council (ANMAC).

SA Health recommends up to 70 CPD hours to be claimed.

Course requirements

The course requires access to the internet and a current browser. It is recommended to use the most recent version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge of Internet Explorer 10 and above. The course can be accessed via desktop, laptop or mobile devices.

The program must be completed within a period of 20 weeks from the date of purchase.

Course assessments

Multiple types of interactive activities and formative assessments are presented throughout the four Modules of the Program. There are multiple-choice question assessments in each of the modules that must be passed within 2 attempts to progress. The final summative assessments are based on a scenario of an immunisation encounter and include catch–up calculations. An accumulative score of at least 80% is required for the MCQ throughout the course and exam 1. A Pass/Fail is required for the catch-up scenarios in exam 2 – 100% correct for a Pass with 3 attempts allowed.

Academic integrity

It is a requirement that a course user’s answers to assessment questions represent their own work. SA Health reserves the right to cancel the enrolment, suspend or remove student access to the program if academic misconduct/dishonesty is proven.

Clinical assessment

A clinical assessment is not required to successfully complete this program.

Depending on skills and experience, many registered nurses and other health practitioners may already have the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities that underpin clinical performance applicable to providing an immunisation service.

Those new to immunisation and those who feel they require further development of clinical competency are strongly encouraged to arrange clinical supervision from an experienced immuniser and this should be followed by a clinical competency assessment. For more information please see the Clinical Competency Assessment Guide (PDF 266KB).


The course costs $350 (inc GST). Secure payment is made by credit card online through BPoint. This is linked to the registration process. If purchasing access on behalf of multiple users (two or more), a request to pay via manual invoice can be made.

Course content

The following is a course outline and provides details of the topics covered. The program is divided into four modules, with the information provided under sub-headings.

Module 1

Module 1 aims to introduce the learner to immunisation from a public health perspective and discusses the effectiveness of immunisation programs and immunisation coverage rates. The National Immunisation Program Schedule is introduced and the governing structures that guide the vaccine recommendations and schedule points for administration.

The module delivers information on the fundamentals of microbiology and immunology, providing a foundation for further understanding of the disease process, the chain of infection, vaccine development and how vaccines work.

Module 2

Levels of many vaccine preventable diseases are low in Australia, but there continues to be a risk of diseases being imported and others continue to occur in Australia. To understand the need to be protected against these diseases, it is important to know how each disease is caused and spread, the severity of illness and possible outcomes including death.

Module 2 presents information on each vaccine preventable disease followed by information on the vaccine designed to protect against the disease.

Module 3

Module 3 will introduce the learner to some of the specific groups that, for a variety of reasons, are at higher risk of some vaccine preventable diseases. Not all groups at risk will be discussed and the module will focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women and preterm babies, immunocompromised individuals, those at occupational risk and newly arrived refugees.

This module will aim to assist the health practitioner to apply the relevant legislative requirements to clinical practice, gain valid consent and effectively communicate risk in the clinical setting.

Module 4

Module 4 describes the requirement for vaccine storage and the national recommendations that are to be integrated into practice to ensure vaccines remain potent and effective so that when administered, they provide protection against these vaccine preventable diseases in the community.

This module will introduce the learner to the requirements necessary to deliver a high quality and safe immunisation service and provide the learner with an understanding of the key elements of vaccine safety.

The learner is informed of the potential adverse events after the administration of a vaccine, how to advise the individuals of these and how adverse events are reported, monitored and investigated to ensure community safety and maintain confidence in immunisation programs. The importance of the need for immunisation providers to be proficient in all aspects of the clinical encounter will be discussed and the steps involved in calculating a catch-up schedule.

Frequently asked questions

Why is this course needed?

Over the past decade there has been exponential growth in the number of vaccines added to the immunisation schedule and the number of groups eligible to receive free vaccines through the National Immunisation Program. This expansion has resulted in increased complexity of the immunisation schedule and immunisation programs in general.

Vaccines are administered to babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers, adolescents as well as pregnant women, the elderly and other vulnerable groups of all ages.

Health professionals, especially those involved in delivering vaccines, need to be well informed to confidently respond to questions and concerns raised by the community.

Who should do this course?

Vaccines are administered by health professionals in a variety of settings such as hospitals, general practice, schools, council clinics and workplace settings.

Health professionals involved in the discussion or delivery of immunisation will benefit from this course.

Evidence of registration with AHPRA is required when registering for the course. The course users’ scope of practice and State and Territory legislation governs whether the Certificate of Completion meets the requirements for the health professional to immunise independent of a medical order.

Is there support available during the course?

Clinical support about the content of the course is available by phone Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5.00 pm (Australian Central Standard Time) from a team of immunisation nurse experts. Emails can be sent anytime and a response will be provided by the next business day.

Technical support is available through an online helpdesk. You can submit a request 24/7 however the technical experts at Digital Media are only able to respond Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm (Australian Central Standard Time).

Are resources provided?

All resources required throughout the course are provided electronically.