Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, hep B, and hib vaccine
This vaccination is free for babies at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 5 months. Your pēpi (baby) needs all 3 doses to be fully protected. It protects against 6 vaccine-preventable diseases in 1 injection.
Diphtheria is a serious disease that can easily spread from person to person (especially within families) through coughing and sneezing.
It causes a skin infection but can also affect the throat causing breathing difficulties.
Diphtheria was a common cause of death in children until the 1940s. But this disease is now very rare in New Zealand because of immunisation.
This rare but serious disease is caused by bacteria found in soil and manure (horse or cow poo). You can get the disease if dirt carrying this bacteria gets into a wound – for example, if your tamariki gets a cut while playing in the garden.
Tetanus toxins caused by the bacteria act like a poison in your body. Symptoms of tetanus disease include painful muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, chewing and swallowing. In the past, about 1 in 10 people who got tetanus would die from the disease.
Tetanus cannot be spread from person to person. Since we began immunising against tetanus in New Zealand it has become a very rare disease. Almost all cases of tetanus have happened in unvaccinated people.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is a bacteria that causes breathing difficulties and severe coughing fits. The cough can go on for weeks or months which is why it’s sometimes called the ‘100 day cough’.
Having severe whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, and other neurological (brain) issues. More than half of babies under 12 months old who catch it need to go to hospital, and up to 1 in 50 of these babies die.
It’s very contagious. It can easily spread between family members by coughing and sneezing. It can also spread quickly around early education centres and schools.
Whooping cough is not under control in New Zealand, and when outbreaks occur, it affects thousands of people.
Polio is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. Symptoms include headache, diarrhoea, tiredness, and pain in the limbs, back and neck.
In serious cases, it can cause paralysis (muscle weakness) and death. About 1 in 20 hospitalised patients die and up to 1 in 50 patients who survive are permanently paralysed.
In Aotearoa, immunisation against polio started in 1961. Before polio vaccines were available, nearly every person became infected; with babies and young children most affected.
There is no cure for polio – it can only be prevented by immunisation.
Until polio is completely eliminated overseas, there is still a risk of polio being imported into New Zealand.
Hepatitis B (hep B)
Hep B can easily spread through contact with the blood or bodily fluids (like saliva) of an infected person. For example, it can spread through cuts and scratches, or by sharing a drink bottle with an infected person.
It's a viral infection that can cause serious problems, including liver disease and liver cancer. Hep B cannot be cured but can be prevented with vaccination.
Hep B was a common disease in New Zealand until a vaccine was introduced in the 1980s.
Haemophilus influenzae type b (hib)
Hib is a bacteria that causes life-threatening illnesses in young children. It’s spread through the air by breathing, coughing and sneezing.
It most often leads to:
- meningitis – an infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord
- epiglottitis – an infection and swelling in the throat that makes it difficult to breathe.
Although doctors can treat Hib with antibiotics, some children still die. Others risk permanent brain and spinal cord damage.
The disease has almost disappeared since the vaccine programme was introduced in the 1990s. Before the vaccine, 1 in every 350 children had the disease before they were 5 years old.
When it’s given
Tamariki need 3 doses of this vaccine. It's given to children for free when they are 6 weeks, 3 months, and 5 months old.
Further boosters to prevent some of these diseases are also on the schedule, this includes:
- a Hib booster at 15 months old
- a diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio booster at 4 years old
- a tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough booster at 11 years old
Which vaccine is used
The vaccine we use in New Zealand is INFANRIX-HEXA.
It’s given as an injection, normally into a muscle in your thigh.
Side effects and reactions
Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.
Mild reactions are normal and show that your child’s immune system is responding to the vaccine.
If your tamariki is going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your child's body within a few hours or days.
The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:
- a slight fever
- pain or swelling where the needle went in.
Other common reactions
Other common reactions within usually happen within 6 to 24 hours. They include:
- crying, being upset, and hard to settle
- loss of appetite
- vomiting or diarrhoea.
Serious side effects are rare. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor or nurse, or call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116.
Call 111 if you’re worried your child is having a serious reaction.
Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.
Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.
Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination. This is why your tamariki need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.