Immunisation facts

Immunisation or vaccination – what’s the difference?

Vaccination involves receiving a vaccine that is either injected through a needle, from drops in the mouth, or is taken by mouth. Immunisation is the process of both receiving a vaccine and developing immunity to the disease as a result.

If you aren’t vaccinated and you get a preventable disease, it could have serious complications. You could be left with a disability or it could even be fatal. Some groups in the community are particularly at-risk. This includes children under 5, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people over 65 years of age.

Queensland’s childhood immunisation rates are comparable with national rates. The Queensland community shows a high level of support for immunisation and death or disability from many once-common infectious diseases is now rare. However, because the diseases are not seen regularly in the community, we need to guard against complacency and continue to recognise the importance of immunisation.

Aiming for a population that’s 95% immunised and therefore has ‘herd immunity’ is a priority. This means enough people are immunised to stop the spread of disease which protect people who can’t be vaccinated.

There are several reasons someone might not be vaccinated:

  • they are too young
  • they have medical reasons
  • they are planning a pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding, and some vaccines may be not be recommended
  • their immune systems are weakened by medical conditions.

Watch this short video and learn more about herd immunity.

How immunisation works

Immunisation helps your body fight diseases. It uses your body’s natural defences to build resistance to a specific disease. If you are exposed to a disease you have been vaccinated against, your immune system remembers it, and responds quickly to stop the disease developing and reduces its impact. Once you’ve been immunised, you stand a much better chance of not developing the disease you’ve been immunised against. If you do develop the disease, your illness will most likely be less severe.

How vaccines work

Vaccines contain small amounts of dead, weakened or partial virus/bacteria. When they are injected into the body, the immune system responds by producing antibodies (substances that fight off infection and disease) in the body. These antibodies can be quickly produced if you contract the virus or bacteria in the future, stopping the disease or reducing its impact.

All vaccines and their ingredients are fully tested for safety before they can be used in Australia. For more information, click here.

Watch this short video and learn more about how vaccines work.

scientists in lab

How we know vaccines are safe

Research and testing is an essential part of developing safe and effective vaccines. Before a vaccine is accepted for use in Australia, it is tested on thousands of people in clinical trials. All vaccines used in Australia have been thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness and are continually monitored to ensure they are safe. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulates all medicines in Australia, including vaccines.

The Australian Academy of Science has reviewed studies which investigate the safety of vaccines. It also has other information and videos based on scientific research which help us to understand immunisation and the role of vaccines. Go to the Australian Academy of Science for further information.

paracetemol

Vaccine reactions

Serious reactions are extremely rare. Minor reactions include short-term redness, swelling, pain and mild fever. If you have a reaction there are several things you can do:

  • take paracetamol for fever or discomfort, as per packet directions
  • consult your doctor if the reaction persists
  • or if a serious or unexpected reaction occurs, seek medical advice.

For specific information on possible side effects from various vaccines, speak to your doctor or health provider.

Check your source of information

Unfortunately, there is a considerable amount of incorrect information available about immunisation. Even advice from well-meaning friends and relatives can be wrong. Make sure your decisions about immunisations are based on fact.

Your best source of information is your doctor, immunisation provider or websites like this one from Queensland Health or the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

Autism words and hands

The truth about vaccines

You cannot get autism from the MMR vaccine.

In 1998, a paper written by Dr Andrew Wakefield, was published in a medical journal (The Lancet) claiming a link between the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine and autism. In 2010 Wakefield’s study was discredited and The Lancet retracted the paper.

Scientists around the world have proven there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This includes findings from the American Academy of Paediatrics, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and others.

Evidence-based reviews recommended by Autism Queensland can be found  at raisingchildren.net.au and cochrane.org. For more on the MMR vaccine, visit ncirs.edu.au.

Infants don't get SIDS from vaccines

Studies show there is no link between immunisation and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Research has shown that SIDS is less common in immunised babies. SIDS and Kids Australia recommend all babies are immunised at the scheduled ages.

You cannot get allergies or asthma from vaccines

There is no link between vaccines and allergic diseases. Vaccines do not cause or worsen allergic diseases. In some people, vaccines may cause short-term allergic reactions, but the risk is very low.

A baby’s immunity isn't weakened by vaccines

Vaccines strengthen your baby’s immunity, protecting them from diseases. This keeps them healthy at a time in their lives when they are vulnerable.

Alternative therapies can’t replace vaccines

There’s no proof alternative therapies protect against infectious diseases. Vaccinations produce the needed immune response and protection against disease.

Unlike vaccines, alternative therapies do not undergo scientific testing and they are not regulated. The Australian Register of Homeopaths says that homeoprophylaxis does not guarantee immunity from infectious disease.

There’s no mercury in vaccines

Vaccines do not contain mercury. Before 2000, some contained thiomersal (a compound containing mercury). It was safe but was changed as a precaution.

Vaccines can reduce the impact of disease

While vaccinated people can still get a preventable disease, the impact of that disease is usually less severe.