In New Zealand, parents and caregivers have the right to make informed decisions regarding their children's immunisations. Making informed decisions means being able to find and understand relevant information, be given the opportunity to discuss it, and make the decision that is right for you and your family. It is best if you can make these decisions before your child is due their immunisations, so that should you decide to go ahead, they can benefit from the best possible protection the vaccines can provide.
Why is an informed choice important?
Being informed about the benefits and risks of immunisation will mean you fully understand what advantages immunisation provides your family, as well as understanding the risks associated with any given vaccine or disease. The right to make an informed choice and give your informed consent when using a health service is guaranteed under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer Rights.
How do I make an informed choice?
The health professional who will be offering immunisation for your child or you is obliged to provide you with accurate, objective, relevant and understandable information to help make an informed choice. They need to explain:
- that you have a choice
- why you are being offered the vaccine
- what is involved in what you are being offered
- the probable benefits, risks, side effects, failure rates and alternatives,
- and the risks and benefits of not receiving the treatment or procedure.
Where do I get information to make an informed choice?
Every parent or caregiver has different information needs when it comes to immunisation. Some are interested in how easy the diseases are to catch, whether they are treatable, and the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. Others want information about the risks of delaying vaccines and any alternatives. There are many different places to go to gather information on immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases.
Internet based resources
Obviously, the internet has a vast amount of good information on various topics, but also contains websites of dubious quality. While many quality web sites offer science-based information about vaccine safety, other sites provide unbalanced and misleading information. The challenge is knowing what to believe.
To assist readers in identifying web sites providing information on vaccine safety that comply with good information practices, the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has recommended a list of criteria that sites providing information on vaccine safety should adhere to. For details on these criteria go to the Vaccine Safety Net site here.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reviewed a number of sites for adherence to the credibility and content criteria, in fact - you’re visiting one right now!
For a full list of other sites visit this site.
Both the Ministry of Health and IMAC have booklets, brochures and fact sheets that may be of assistance.
Face to face or phone-based information
We provide a free phone line - 0800 IMMUNE (466 863), available Monday to Friday 9 am to 4.30 pm. You are welcome to call us to find out any information you need, all our advisors are qualified nurses with extensive immunisation and vaccine-preventable disease knowledge. We also have access to doctors with specialised knowledge, should that be needed.
If you want to sit down and talk through the various questions you may have about immunisation, we would recommend calling your family doctor to arrange time to talk to them or the practice nurse. Your Lead Maternity Carer or Plunket Nurse will also be able to help, if you are expecting a baby or they are still looking after you and your child.