Childhood immunisation

Immunisation is also known as vaccination

Key points about childhood immunisation

  • Vaccination protects your child from serious and sometimes fatal diseases.
  • Vaccination on time is the most effective way to protect pregnant women, babies and children from preventable disease.
  • Vaccinations begin during your pregnancy and for your child when they are 6 weeks old.
  • Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free in New Zealand for all babies, children and young people.
  • The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
Young Asian woman looks lovingly at her baby

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2019)

In the past, many children died or were left with life-long problems from diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles and whooping cough. Today, we use vaccines to immunise children against these and other diseases. Vaccines stimulate their immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if they were exposed to the disease. The child will develop immunity to that disease, but they don't have to get sick first. This is what makes vaccines such a powerful medicine. Read more about why you should vaccinate.

(Northland District Health Board, NZ, 2015)

The National Immunisation Schedule(external link)(external link) lists the group of vaccines that are offered free to babies, children and adolescents (and adults). The schedule lists the vaccines and the age at which they should be given. 

Vaccines against the following diseases are available free-of-charge for babies and children in New Zealand

Image credit: Te Whatu Ora, NZ, 2023

Image credit: Ministry of Health, NZ

These diseases can cause serious problems, and can sometimes be fatal. Vaccination is the best protection against them. Vaccination may not always stop these diseases, but it can reduce the problems they cause. Read more about vaccines available in New Zealand.

Be on time. Immunise on time, every time.

(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2017)

Te Kano Ārai Mate ā-kura: Information about school immunisations in te reo Māori

The video below (Te Kano Ārai Mate ā-kura) provides information about school immunisations in te reo Māori.

(Te Whatu Ora, Health New Zealand, 2023)

Some children may need to have their vaccines at different times to the schedule. For example, babies at high risk of hepatitis B may be offered hepatitis B immunisation earlier than others. If they are at risk of tuberculosis they may also need the BCG vaccine to protect against tuberculosis. Discuss your child’s own needs with your doctor.

You can make an appointment with a healthcare provider for vaccinations. Most are given by your doctor or nurse, but pharmacists, midwives and other trained health professionals can also give some vaccines. 

New Zealand pharmacists who have completed an approved vaccinator training course can administer a variety of vaccines including the flu vaccine, measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine, meningococcal vaccine and shingles vaccine.  Always call your pharmacy ahead of time to find out if they offer this service, the cost and whether they can order the vaccine for you.

Vaccinations are most often given as injections in the arm or leg, but the rotavirus vaccine is given as drops into the mouth. 

Parents can help in a number of ways.

  • Check which vaccines you need to have during your pregnancy.
  • Start vaccinating your baby on time at 6 weeks of age.
  • For young children, book your appointment early in the day and plan a calm day afterwards.
  • Bring along a stuffed toy or blanket for your child to hold during the vaccination, or use them to distract your child.
  • For babies, feed your child straight after their vaccination; this can help to calm your baby.
  • Hold your child firmly, talk calmly and gently stroke your child's arm or back.
  • After being pricked by the needle, your child may cry. Try to stay calm and relaxed. Hold them, comfort them and talk calmly.
  • You will need to stay for 20 minutes after the vaccination, so bring something to keep your child busy afterwards.

Read more tips for making immunisation easier.(external link)(external link)

About 1 in 10 children have a reaction to vaccinations. Most of these reactions are mild, such as fever or redness at the injection site. These reactions show that the immune response is building and the vaccine is working. Read more about after your child is immunised(external link)(external link) and tips following immunisation.(external link)(external link)  

Very rarely, a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can happen. This happens very shortly after the injection which is why you must wait for 20 minutes after vaccination. If you are worried, ask to see the nurse or doctor straight away.

Immunisation – Year 7 discussion

Duane and Hinetaapora talk about getting immunised against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis). What does immunisation do and why do you need it? What are immunisations for and how do they work? How do you get parental consent?


(Te Whatu Ora, NZ, 2023)


Te Kano Ārai Mate ā-kura - information about school immunisations in te reo Māori

In this te reo video, Duane and Hinetaapora talk about getting immunised against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (or pertussis). What does immunisation do and why do you need it? What are immunisations for and how do they work? How do you get parental consent?

(Te Whatu Ora, Health New Zealand, 2023)


Immunisation Year 8 protection against HPV

Hinetaapora talks about getting immunised against the human papillomavirus (HPV). What is HPV immunisation and why do you need it?

  (Te Whatu Ora, Health New Zealand, 2023)

Vaccination is not compulsory in Aotearoa New Zealand but it is a good choice. There is a lot of information about vaccination and this can be confusing. It's important to check where the information is from so you can make a good choice. Think about whether it:

  • is based on sound evidence
  • is up-to-date information
  • relates to Aotearoa New Zealand.

The following links provide more information on vaccination.

Children(external link)(external link) Fight Flu, NZ
Immunisation and recommended times [PNG, 231 KB] Te Whatu Ora, NZ
Immunisation overview(external link)(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Informed decision making(external link)(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Vaccine-preventable diseases(external link)(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Information about immunisation in NZ(external link)(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ


childhood immunisation

Childhood immunisation booklet(external link)

Ministry of Health, NZ, 2019

nz immunisation schedule 2018

New Zealand National Immunisation Schedule(external link)

Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ, 2020

Immunisation and recommended times
Te Whatu Ora, NZ, 2023

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Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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