Benefits of immunisation
As well as protecting yourself, and your tamariki, from infectious disease and getting really sick, there are lots of reasons why immunisation benefits your children, your whānau, and your community.
Immunisation protects your tamariki, whānau, and community
After access to clean water, immunisation is the most effective health intervention in the world for saving lives.
- Immunisation stops adults and tamariki from getting really sick and having to go to hospital.
- Immunisation stops people dying from diseases that could be prevented.
- Immunisation reduces the risk of having long-term health issues and disabilities caused by disease.
- Immunisation stops people from passing diseases to their whānau, particularly to those who may not have strong immune systems.
- Immunisation keeps your community safe by stopping the spread of disease – sometimes called ‘herd immunity’.
- Immunisation may mean having to take less time off school or work due to your whānau getting sick.
- Immunisation during pregnancy helps keep both you and your baby safe.
Why is it important to immunise your tamariki?
Immunisation basically is a magic therapy. It stimulates your immune system.
It protects against a wide range of illnesses.
Now, some of those illnesses have gone essentially in our community because immunisation has been so successful.
Why is it important for your child to get all of their immunisations?
It’s really important to get all of the vaccines and not just individual ones.
So if we look at one of the vaccinations, which is called MMR, that is measles, mumps, and rubella. Now, measles is a very severe disease that can kill a large number of children.
Mumps can also kill little children, but it's uncommon.
Rubella is a disease that we haven't seen for such a long period of time.
Those two, the measles and the rubella have been extremely successful, and if we stop giving those vaccines there's a risk that it can come back.
If a child misses one of their immunisations, can they catch up?
So if you miss one of your child's vaccinations, it's no big deal. Things happen. We all have busy lives. It's really easy to catch up.
The immunisations, again, they're not medicine. There is no overdose that you can have.
So if for whatever reason your child misses the vaccine just present to whoever you want to go to. Typically general practice and say, "Look, my child needs their vaccines," and they can be caught up.
How safe are childhood immunisations?
Childhood immunisations are probably the safest thing that you can ever give your child.
They're much safer than things like paracetamol or ibuprofen, which is something we always give.
The most common side effects you might have from getting an immunisation are things like some pain and swelling around the injection site and sometimes you get a fever.
There are some extremely rare side effects that are very uncommon that we seldom ever see and massively outweighed by the benefits of the immunisations and the protections they give.
Before we had vaccines
Before we had vaccines the devastation caused by disease was part of everyday life. They caused long-term health issues, disabilities, and many people – including babies and children, died.
For example, between 1910 and 1950, there were 7 polio epidemics in Aotearoa New Zealand. Polio killed hundreds of children and left many more paralysed for life. Since we started using the polio vaccine in the 1960s, there have been fewer than 10 cases in New Zealand.
Some diseases are still common
Some diseases, such as whooping cough are still common in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Every year, more than a million people around the world die from diseases that vaccines can prevent. Most of these diseases have become rare in Aotearoa because so many of us are vaccinated. This makes it much harder for a disease to spread.
However, many diseases are returning worldwide because routine vaccinations were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If we do not stay up-to-date with our vaccinations, an outbreak could easily happen. This sadly happened in Samoa in 2019 after the number of people getting a measles vaccination declined significantly. This resulted in a serious outbreak that killed 83 people – mostly babies and children.
Modern vaccines have excellent safety records. This means your tamariki are much more likely to get sick from an infectious disease than they are to get sick from a vaccine.
Every vaccine available in New Zealand has been assessed for safety and effectiveness both within New Zealand, and overseas.
If you decline any immunisations for your child
If you decline any, or all, immunisations for your tamariki – they will be at much higher risk of harm from vaccine-preventable diseases.
You may also be putting your community at risk, as high immunisation coverage is needed to protect those unable to be immunised – such as newborn babies, and those having cancer treatment.
Tamariki who are not immunised may need to be excluded from early childhood centres, daycare, or school to prevent the spread of the disease – for instance in a measles outbreak.
It’s OK to ask questions
It’s normal to take extra care when making decisions about your family’s health.
If you have questions or would like to talk to someone about your child’s vaccinations, you can:
- talk to your doctor, nurse, or trusted healthcare professional
- call Healthline any time on 0800 611 116 (translators are available)
- call PlunketLine any time on 0800 933 922.