As a parent, you’d do everything to protect your tamariki. Immunisation helps prevent many serious childhood infections.
Toi Te Ora Public Health recommends immunisation as a safe and effective way of preventing a number of serious childhood diseases such as whooping cough, pneumococcal disease and Hepatitis B. Childhood immunisation is free.
To develop good immune protection against a range of serious diseases there is a comprehensive schedule of immunisations (including boosters) that must be given over time.
The Ministry of Health and Toi Te Ora Public Health recommends that all children are fully immunised. To be fully immunised, your child should receive their free routine vaccinations at the ages of 6 weeks, 3, 5, 12 and 15 months, and 4 and 11 years. Babies are vulnerable and need to be immunised at six weeks.
Immunising your tamariki at the recommended times is the best way to protect them against serious diseases. Contact your doctor, practice nurse or Māori healthcare provider to book their immunisations.
New Zealand immunisation schedule by age
The National Immunisation Schedule includes a series of vaccines that are offered free to babies, toddlers and children. The Ministry of Health and Toi Te Ora Public Health recommends that all children are fully immunised. To be fully immunised, your child should receive their free vaccinations at the following ages:
Immunising your tamariki at the recommended times is the best way to protect them against serious diseases. Delaying your child’s immunisations can put them at greater risk of serious disease.
Create a personalised immunisation schedule for your child on the Immunise website.
Protect your child from these serious diseases
Immunisation (vaccination) protects your child from some serious infectious diseases. Find out more about these conditions.
- Chicken pox
- Haemophilus Influenza Type B (HIB)
- Hepatitis B
- Meningococcal disease
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease
The Ministry of Health recommends that all children are immunised against these diseases.
Immunisation for babies at six weeks
Babies are vulnerable and need to be immunised, with the first vaccination due at six weeks of age.
Toi Te Ora Public Health recommends immunisation as a safe and effective way of preventing a number of serious childhood diseases such as whooping cough, pneumococcal disease and Hepatitis B. Childhood immunisations are free.
Immunising at six weeks means babies are protected when they are most vulnerable
Young babies are at particular risk of certain diseases because of the relative immaturity of the infant immune system. This also means diseases can be more serious in young babies.
Starting your baby's immunisation at six weeks old and then continuing to immunise on time, every time is ideal; but if your child has missed one of their vaccinations, it's never too late to catch up. Contact your local medical centre for an appointment today.
Immunisation protects against many serious childhood diseases
The diseases that babies are immunised against in the first year can and do cause serious harm both here and overseas. For example, around five out of ten babies who catch whooping cough before the age of six months require hospitalisation and 1-2 in 100 of those who are hospitalised die from whooping cough infection.
If more parents make sure their children are vaccinated, the community as a whole will be better protected. This lowers the chance of outbreaks of disease.
Even the healthiest children can catch these diseases if they are not immunised
When contact occurs for the first time, a person becomes ill while their immune system prepares a response. Healthier children do not necessarily have milder forms of the illness and so immunisation is important for all children.
A young baby’s immune system can easily cope with immunisation
Babies deal with viruses and bacteria every day and so are constantly making antibodies against these. Immunisation (including multiple vaccines) makes the most of this natural process and does not ‘overload’ the immune system.
Breastfeeding and good hygiene are great, but do not provide adequate protection against diseases
Breastfeeding can reduce the severity and frequency of chest, ear and gut infections. However, breastfeeding does not provide specific protection against diseases like whooping cough. Good hygiene will reduce the chance of some infections, but cannot provide 100 percent protection.
Where to get your baby immunised
Immunisations are FREE from your local medical centre.
Immunisation for babies and toddlers at 12 and 15 months
Immunising at 12 and 15 months of age helps to keep your child safe from many infectious diseases.
These infectious diseases can make babies and toddlers really unwell and by immunising you can help to protect them from:
- Measles - a highly infectious viral disease that can often have serious complications.
- Mumps - a highly contagious viral infection spread by droplets in the air and saliva. It is typically recognised by fever and swollen, tender salivary glands.
- Rubella - a viral disease that causes a rash and swollen glands. It may cause severe damage to unborn babies if acquired during pregnancy.
- Meningococcal disease - a bacterial infection that causes two very serious illnesses: meningitis (an infection of the membranes that cover the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
- Pneumococcal disease – this disease can cause pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease including bacteraemia (blood infection) and meningitis.
- Chicken pox - also known as varicella, is a highly infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus and is most commonly seen in children.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a bacteria that can cause many illnesses including meningitis.
Immunising your baby at 12 and 15 months is really important as it helps to protect them from Measles, Mumps and Rubella. This vaccine (MMR) is very effective and after the first dose of MMR vaccine, 90-95% of babies will be protected from measles, 95-96% protected from mumps, and 90-97% protected from rubella. The second booster dose of MMR is given at 15 months of age.
Immunisations for older children
Children are offered free immunisations at around age 11, against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis), and at around age 12, against human papillomavirus (HPV). These immunisations are offered at school during years 7 and 8.
The Public Health Nurses visit participating schools in February. The children are given consent forms to bring home for their parents and caregivers to sign.
Parents need to:
- read the forms,
- fill out the forms and say whether or not they consent to the immunisations,
- sign the forms and return them to school.
If you would like to find out more you can speak to your Public Health Nurse. For the Western Bay area call (07) 577 3383, or for the Eastern Bay area call (07) 306 0944. You can also contact your family doctor or practice nurse.
Preparing for an appointment
You’ll need at least 30 to 45 minutes for the whole immunisation appointment (this includes 20 minutes of waiting time after the vaccination). Allow a little longer if you’re bringing more than 1 child, or other whānau, for immunisation.
If you have a Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book, bring it along to the appointment so the vaccinator can update the immunisation history. Do not worry if you do not have this, immunisations are also recorded in the National Immunisation Register.
From 15 months old, your vaccinator can also provide an immunisation certificate if you need to show your early childhood centre or school that your child has been immunised.
You do not need to bring ID to the appointment.
Changing an appointment
If need to change your appointment time, call to let them know as soon as possible. This allows you to make a new appointment time that works better for you, and your previous appointment can be given to someone else.
If you’re unwell on the day of the appointment
Contact your health provider. They will be able to advise if the vaccination should still be given.
If you have COVID-19 you will need to reschedule.
Tips that may help you, and your tamariki, feel more comfortable
- Choose clothes that can be removed or rolled up to make the injection easier. Babies under 12 months have all their injections in the thigh. From 1 year, tamariki have their injections in the arm or thigh.
- Bring any kai or drink you’ll need during this time.
- Bring your child’s favourite toy, blanket, game, or book along as a distraction and to keep them busy afterwards.
- If you’re nervous, bring a whānau member or friend for support.
At the appointment
Your vaccinator will talk to you about the immunisation and what to expect afterwards. There will be time to ask questions and you will be asked if you’re happy to go ahead with the immunisation. In some situations you might need to sign a piece of paper to show you agree to the immunisation.
Tips for pēpi and tamariki immunisations
- Talking, cuddling, and holding your tamariki will help distract them from the injection and soothe them afterwards if they're upset.
- Try to stay calm. Babies and children can tell when their parents are feeling anxious.
- Feeding your baby (including breast or bottle feeding) while they’re being immunised may help them feel more comfortable.
If you need extra support
When you make an appointment, or when you arrive, make sure you let the team know if you or your tamariki might need some extra help.
They may be able to help by:
- providing a space away from other people
- supporting you with other tamariki you bring to the appointment
- accessibility arrangements and mobility assistance
- arranging for a home visit (this may be through another health service).
If you’re scared of needles
Let the vaccinator know if you or your child is scared of needles. They’re trained to make you as comfortable as possible. They can provide distractions and techniques to help reduce pain and anxiety.
After the immunisation
You’ll be asked to wait up to 20 minutes after the vaccination to make sure you and your tamariki are feeling OK.
Some people experience mild reactions after immunisation. They may develop a fever or experience tenderness, swelling and redness where the injection was given. This is the body’s normal response to immunisation and shows the vaccine is working. Symptoms usually settle after a day or 2. If you do not experience any side effects that’s OK too, the vaccine is still working.
If you’re concerned about your tamariki after their immunisation, contact your family doctor or nurse. You can also call Healthline any time on 0800 611 116.
Catching up on missed immunisations
If you’ve missed a vaccination, it’s OK. Tamariki can catch up for free on most vaccinations, and adults can catch up on lots too. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider to make a plan.
It’s a good idea to discuss immunisation with your doctor. Other evidence-based sources of information are listed below.
Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand
- Immunise - a website with information for parents, caregivers, and their whānau to understand the childhood immunisations given in New Zealand, when to immunise, how to book an appointment and more.
Immunisation Advisory Centre
- Website or phone 0800 IMMUNE (466 863)
Ministry of Health
- Website - Information from the New Zealand Government on immunisation including the National Immunisation Schedule.
- Website - Various Ministry of Health immunisation education resources; suitable for different ethnic groups.
- Phone: 0800 221 555 (Toi Te Ora Public Health)