When a large percentage of the population are immunised against a specific disease, it becomes harder for that disease to spread. If enough people in the community are immunised, the infection can no longer be spread from person to person and the disease can die out altogether.
Immunisation is a simple, safe and highly effective way of protecting children and adults from harmful diseases before they come into contact with them. It is estimated that vaccinations currently save up to three million lives worldwide each year.
The benefits of immunisation far outweigh the risks from the diseases they prevent.
How immunisation works
Immunisation uses the body’s natural defence mechanism – the immune response. When a person is vaccinated, their body produces an immune response in the same way their body would after exposure to a disease, but without the person suffering symptoms of the disease. When a person comes in contact with that disease in the future, their immune system will respond fast enough to prevent the person developing the disease.
Young children, particularly babies, do not have a well-developed immune system like older children and adults. Most vaccines need to be given more than once to build long lasting protection. It is important for children to complete the full recommended course or schedule of vaccinations at the recommended times. Sometimes it is possible to ‘catch up’ if the vaccinations are not given on time. Not getting the full course of vaccinations can leave a child unprotected and at risk of disease.
Your doctor or immunisation provider will check if you can be vaccinated by completing a pre-vaccination screening. They should also discuss the effects of the disease, the possible side effects of vaccination and what to do to reduce the side effects, before you consent to being vaccinated.
You or your health professional can report vaccine reactions.
For more information about immunisations, contact your doctor or immunisation services provider.
For further information for other Australian states or territories, contact the health department in that state or territory or the Immunise Australia Program.