Immunisation is one of the best ways to protect your child against many serious diseases. It works by using a vaccine to stimulate their body’s immune system. When a germ like a virus or bacteria enters the body for the first time, the immune system takes time to produce special antibodies to fight that particular germ. During that time, a person may become unwell. As the protective cells and antibodies are made, they destroy the germs and the person recovers. The immune system remembers the germ, for years or for life. If it enters the body again, the immune system can fight off the germ before the person becomes unwell.
Babies are born with some natural immunity to certain infections because antibodies are passed on to them from their mother before birth. Breast-fed babies get additional antibodies from their mother’s milk. However, this immunity does not last long. Babies and children need immunisation to provide ongoing protection from many life-threatening diseases.
Many of the diseases that are now rare in New Zealand still exist in other countries and are brought into the country by travellers from time to time, for example, measles. Some diseases will always be present, such as tetanus, which is caused by bacteria that live in the soil.
All childhood vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free to all children in New Zealand before they turn 18 years. All immigrant and visiting children can have free immunisations too.
The National Immunisation Schedule:
Age Diseases covered and vaccines
6 weeks Rotavirus; Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/Polio/Hepatitis B/Haemophilus influenzae type b; Pneumococcal
3 months Rotavirus; Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/Polio/Hepatitis B/Haemophilus influenzae type b; Pneumococcal
5 months Rotavirus; Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/Polio/Hepatitis B/Haemophilus influenzae type b; Pneumococcal
15 months Haemophilus influenzae type b; Measles/Mumps/Rubella; Pneumococcal
4 years Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis/Polio; Measles/Mumps/Rubella
11 years Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis
12 years (girls only) Human papillomavirus