Immunisations for school-aged children
At 11 years old your tamariki will be offered a free tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough immunisation. Between 9 and 13 they will be offered free HPV immunisation. They can also get immunised against illnesses like meningococcal disease, flu, and COVID-19.
Immunisations on the schedule are free for children under 18
In Aotearoa New Zealand, we have a National Immunisation Schedule. This lists the vaccines offered to tamariki and adults and the best time to get immunised. All vaccinations on the National Immunisation Schedule are free for children under 18 – it does not matter what their visa or citizenship status is. This includes visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand.
Extra vaccines not on the schedule may also be recommended if you, or your child, is considered high-risk, or if you’re travelling abroad. Some of these vaccines you may need to pay for.
Tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough vaccine (Boostrix)
The tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough vaccine is offered to children for free from when they are 11 years old.
It’s available through some schools for students in Year 7. Information about the immunisations and consent forms are provided by the school for the parent or caregiver to sign.
If your school is not offering immunisations, or your child has missed out for any reason, you can take them to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider for their vaccinations.
Although HPV immunisation is provided through most participating schools in Year 7 or Year 8 it is free for everyone aged 9 to 26 years, including non-residents under 18 years old.
- Tamariki aged 9 to 14 years old need 2 doses. The second dose is given at least 6 months after the first dose.
- Rangatahi (young people) from age 15 years old need 3 doses. These are given over 6 months.
[Hinetaapora] Hi! I’m Hinetaapora. I’m going to talk to you about being immunised against HPV.
That's short for human papillomavirus.
A group of viruses that can live in skin cells
They’re passed on in different ways through skin to skin contact and they’re pretty common. Did you know, four out of five people get them in their teenage years? Most of the time you wouldn’t even know that they’re there and they usually go away on their own.
But sometimes they hang around, and then they can be really nasty.
[Ella] Oh, hi Hinetaapora, how can I help?
[Hinetaapora] I would like to know about the HPV immunisation.
[Ella] Well we give you this HPV immunisation, at school, about age 12 because we know that’s the best time for you to be protected. This is the age where you produce the best antibodies after your vaccinations.
Most people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. This can lead to genital warts, and for a few, this can cause cancer, especially cervical cancer.
More than 50 women in New Zealand die of cervical cancer every year, and lots more need hospital treatment.
[Hinetaapora] Right, so it’s pretty serious.
[Ella] It is.
[Hinetaapora] Is it just girls who can get HPV?
[Ella] No, boys get it too. They don’t get cervical cancer, but they can get cancer in other parts of their body if they get infected.
[Hinetaapora] So how does Immunisation work?
[Ella] The immune system protects us against germs by making special blood cells and antibodies.
The first time your body meets a germ, your body takes time to make the blood cells and antibodies to fight off that germ.
It’s during this time that the germs can sometimes make you unwell. But a healthy immune system will eventually fight off the germs.
Once your immune system has encountered a germ, it can recognise it the next time it sees it. Your immune system is able to fight off the germs before you become unwell. This is called immunity.
HPV immunisation works by making your body recognise the most common kinds of HPV that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. The HPV vaccine contains little particles that look the same as some of the particles on the outside of the real virus.
Because they are only particles and not the real virus you can’t get HPV from the vaccine. They’ll just help your immune system fight the HPV virus in the future.
[Hinetaapora] I’ve heard some kids can react badly to an injection.
[Ella] Hardly ever but it can happen.
You probably won’t have any side effects at all.
A few people feel a little dizzy, sick or get a fever or headache after their vaccination. This is normal, and should get better on its own.
[Ella] There are things you can do to help.
Make sure you have breakfast or lunch before your injection. Even a snack before or afterwards will help stop you feeling faint.
The injections are done in your upper arm, so wear a loose shirt, preferably with short sleeves.
Take things easy afterwards. Your nurse will keep an eye on you after the vaccination and will provide you with all the advice you need.
If you’ve reacted badly to an injection before, or even if you’ve just been ill lately, somebody in your family should ask the doctor or practice nurse if it’s OK for you to have the immunisation.
If you have asthma, allergies, or you’re getting over something not too serious like a common cold, you can still be immunised. Your parents can talk to the nurse if they would like more information.
But the important thing is that the benefits of immunisation are huge compared to the risks.
[Ella] It will take 2 injections a few months apart to be fully protected.
In very rare cases a problem can occur. But we nurses are trained to deal with it and, as I said, problems are very rare indeed.
They’re covered off in the form you will get to take home.
[Hinetaapora] So once you’ve been immunised. You’re covered right?
[Ella] Actually, that’s not the end of the story.
When girls become adults, they should get a smear test done every few years. This is another way to protect against the risk of cancer.
[Hinetaapora] So to get immunised, kids need to get the form signed, right?
[Ella] That’s right Hinetaapora. We can’t immunise any kid before the parents or guardians let the nurses know whether or not you can have the vaccines.
We’re handing these out to all kids to take home.
It has everything they need to know.
It has to be filled in, signed and brought back to school before we can do your immunisation.
Tell your parents to fill in Section A to get the immunisation done at school or Section B if they don’t want you to get it.
Either way, they must sign the form, and you have to bring it back to school.
But if your parents or guardians aren’t sure about anything, don’t worry.
They can talk to me or any school nurse, the doctor or the practice nurse.
They can even watch this video for themselves – online at www.health.govt.nz/immunisation
[Hinetaapora] You want to keep yourself healthy, right? Get your parents to sign the form so you can be immunised against HPV.
Other immunisations for this age group
To provide the best protection for your tamariki, make sure they’re also up to date with the following immunisations.
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) – if your child has not already received 2 doses
- COVID-19 – ages 12 years old and over are eligible for 2 doses, and ages 16 and over are eligible for 2 doses and a booster
- Annual flu vaccine – recommended for everyone over 6 months old. Free for children under 12 years old, and older children with certain health conditions
- Meningococcal – free for rangatahi (young people) aged 13 to 25 in close-living situations (like boarding schools or tertiary hostels and halls of residence).
[Abbie] My name is Abbie, I'm 18 years old and next year I'm going to be heading off to the University of Canterbury and I'm doing a Bachelor of Science where I'm going to major in medicinal chemistry.
[Jayden] My name is Jayden and I'm 17 years old. I'm heading up to the University of Auckland next year to study engineering. Just last week I got the meningococcal vaccine to protect myself.
My medical centre emailed advertising about it that it was government funded, so I decided to get it.
The email advertised it as a good protection for staying in a hall of residence where there's so many people in a confined space.
[Abi] I had the meningococcal vaccine early last week I learned that meningitis can actually be quite dangerous and can come really bad, really quickly. [Jayden] It didn't hurt at all I just got the vaccine a sore arm for a couple days but that's just the normal.
[Abi] I've got all my childhood vaccines from very young to now so for me this is just another vaccine I need to get to protect me against another disease.
If a vaccination has been missed – it’s easy to catch up
If your child has missed a vaccination, it’s OK. Rangatahi (young people) can catch up on most vaccinations. If your child has missed a school vaccination, contact your school to see if there is a catch-up vaccination day.
It’s particularly important for rangatahi to be up to date with 2 doses of the measles vaccine.
For advice, talk to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or trusted healthcare provider.
Extra vaccines for rangatahi
Extra free immunisations are available for those at high-risk, and some vaccines can also be purchased for extra protection and for overseas travel.