Immunisation saves lives and makes it possible for people to live free from the illness and the disability caused by many infectious diseases.
By reducing the spread of disease, immunisation not only protects those people who have been immunised, but it also protects people around them who can't be immunised themselves.
How Immunisation Works
Immunisation involves being given what's called a vaccine.
Vaccines trick the body into building resistance (immunity) against infectious diseases without causing the actual disease. They do this by introducing a dead or weakened version of the disease-causing germ (bacteria or virus) to the body’s immune system, usually by an injection.
Why You Might Need Immunisation
If you think you got all the immunisations you ever needed when you were a child, think again! What immunisations you need depends on a range of factors.
Some health conditions can mean you need extra protection from some vaccine-preventable diseases. Examples of these conditions include:
Secondary school students are at an age when they need a boost to faded immunity from childhood vaccinations, and vaccination against particular diseases to provide protection before possible exposure (for example HPV vaccine before having sex).
Examples of lifestyle choices that mean you might benefit from additional vaccinations include:
- Travelling overseas
- Playing contact sport
- Having sex (particularly for men who have sex with men)
- Getting a tattoo or body piercing
Some jobs expose you to a greater risk of contact with diseases that can be prevented by vaccination. Examples of these jobs include:
- Working with animals
Many vaccines are provided free by the Victorian or Commonwealth Government. For example, immunisation for secondary students is provided free of charge, at school (with your parents' permission). If students or parents prefer, the same vaccines can be given by your family doctor.
Remember, though: it’s likely you will still have to pay your doctor to give you the vaccine, even if the vaccine itself is free. Some vaccines, especially for travel, need to be purchased on prescription.
Sometimes vaccination costs are covered by private health funds. Check with your health fund (or your parents' or guardians' health fund) to see if you're covered.
When thinking about the cost of vaccines, it’s most important to think about what it might cost you if you are not protected.
Immunisation Side Effects
Common side effects, like soreness at the injection site, can occur soon after vaccination and last one or two days. Generally, no treatment is needed if you have mild side-effects.
- If you have a fever, drink plenty of water and don’t wear too many clothes.
- If you are in pain, you can take paracetamol according to the label directions.
Severe side effects, like allergic reactions, are very rare and usually occur soon after immunisation. That’s why, to be safe, your doctor will usually ask you to wait nearby for 15 minutes after you are vaccinated.
Where to Find Out More
The Victorian Government's Immune Hero website has quality-assured, up-to-date information about immunisation, including how you can get vaccinated, how vaccines work, travel and vaccines, particular diseases and their vaccines, and myths and facts about immunisation.