Immunisation is the most effective way to actively protect your child from preventable diseases, such as whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and measles.
The first time we are exposed to a germ, for example a bacterium or virus, it takes time for the immune system to respond and we become unwell. However, once the immune system has memory of the infection, it is able to respond rapidly to destroy the germ the next time we are exposed.
Vaccines contain parts of or weakened versions (inactivated or attenuated) of a particular germ. Vaccination exposes the body to parts of the germ for the first time without causing disease, and subsequently, the real germ can be rapidly destroyed if it enters the body to prevent illness.
Very young children are particularly at risk of becoming sick, because their immune system lacks experience and is unable to respond quickly. Many of the diseases that vaccines protect us from are very serious in young children. Some, for example measles, are highly contagious and usually fairly mild, but pose a risk of serious complications even in healthy people. Immunisation is the safest and most effective way to provide protection for your child’s health.
The National Immunisation Schedule provides the best protection for our children when they are most at risk. From six weeks of age, children can be protected from several potentially dangerous diseases. It is very important to stick to the schedule – not immunising your child increases the risk of them getting the infection, and not keeping up to date reduces the protection that the immunisation can provide. It takes a few months and repeated doses of a vaccine for an infant to be fully protected.
How well does immunisation work?
Immunisation works very well to help to prevent a wide range of serious diseases. Sometimes it does not provide complete protection, however in this case, an immunised person is likely to get the disease less severely than someone who is not immunised. This is because the body is still able respond rapidly.