Learn about immunisation
The difference between immunisation and vaccination
- Vaccines are medicines that protect you against specific diseases.
- Vaccination involves receiving a vaccine from a healthcare professional.
- Vaccines are usually administered by an injection via needle or drops in the mouth.
- Immunisation is the process of receiving a vaccine and then becoming immune to the disease.
Diseases preventable by immunisation
You can be immunised against many diseases that cause serious health complications or death. These include:
- influenza (flu)
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis A
- meningococcal disease
- pneumococcal disease
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Varicella zoster
How immunisation works
- When you are vaccinated, your body produces an immune response.
- Immune response is your body's natural defence system to fight illness and disease.
- Immunisation uses the immune response to build resistance to specific infection.
- This works in the same way your body responds to disease exposure but without the symptoms.
- Symptoms are signs of the disease, for example, pain or fatigue.
- If you are exposed to the disease in the future, your immune system will respond fast enough to prevent you developing the disease.
- All forms of immunisation work in the same way.
When your vaccine protection starts
Generally, you will be protected approximately two weeks after your vaccine. This means protection from an infection will not occur immediately after immunisation.
How long immunisations can last
The protective effect of immunisations varies. Some can last up to 30 years while others may only last four years.
Annual vaccination is required for influenza as the virus changes regularly.
Is everyone protected from disease by immunisation?
Even when all the doses of a vaccine have been given, not everyone is protected against the disease. Booster doses may be needed because immunity decreases over time.
How safe are vaccines?
- All vaccines in Australia must pass strict safety testing before being approved for use.
- This testing is required by law and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
- Vaccine safety is monitored by the Advisory Committee on Vaccines (ACV) and other organisations.
- Before vaccines are made available to all Australians, they go through tests in people called clinical trials.
- Vaccine approvals can take up to 10 years.
You may be able to get an exemption from having a vaccine if there is a valid medical reason.
Where to get vaccinated
General Practices offer a wide range of vaccination services including all National Immunisation Program vaccines. Contact your GP to find out the vaccination services available, including for patients with underlying medical conditions.
Council Immunisation Clinics
Contact your local council to find out about the vaccination services offered in your area. Councils routinely run vaccination clinics for eligible individuals. Check the Council immunisation clinic schedule for future clinic dates.
Most pharmacies offer a vaccination service for adults, with select pharmacies now also offering COVID-19 and influenza vaccines for children aged 5 years and above. Some vaccines offered in pharmacies require a prescription from a medical or nurse practitioner. Discuss with your local pharmacist to find out what vaccines they offer.
Check the Australian Government vaccine clinic finder or Find a health service to find a vaccination provider near you. For information on specific vaccinations available from your pharmacy go to Find a pharmacy.
Where to get more information
To find out more about vaccines and immunisation, you can contact:
- your general practitioner
- local council
- your local pharmacist
- the immmunisation team within Public Health Services on 1800 671 738