Immunisation is a way of preventing infectious diseases. Vaccinations are offered to babies, children and adults to protect against serious and preventable diseases.

Free meningococcal vaccine eligibility widened from 1 March 2023

Free meningococcal B vaccine for tamariki aged under 5 years old 

On 1 March the meningococcal B vaccine became free for all babies aged 12 months and under. It’s administered as part of the National Immunisation Schedule alongside the other infant immunisations. 

A free catch-up programme is available until 31 August 2025 for all other tamariki aged under 5 years old.  

Expanded access for people aged 13 to 25 in specified close-living situations 

People aged between 13 and 25, in their first year living in boarding school hostels, tertiary education halls of residence, military barracks, or correctional facilities are also eligible for free meningococcal B immunisation.  

A free catch-up programme is available until 28 February 2024 for all people aged 13-25 currently living in boarding schools, university hostels, military barracks, or correctional facilities.

Find out more about meningococcal disease and immunisation

Immunisation uses your body’s natural defence mechanism, the immune response, to build resistance to specific infections. If you have been immunised and come into contact with that disease, your immune system will respond to prevent you developing the disease. 

All vaccines approved for use in New Zealand have a good safety record and ongoing safety monitoring. You can find out more at the University of Auckland Immunisation Advisory Centre website, or you can call 0800 IMMUNE to have your queries answered. 

Why get immunised?

Immunisation helps protect against the spread of serious diseases. Learn more about the importance of getting immunised and how vaccine-preventable diseases can affect New Zealand families.

[Doctor Keriana Bird in her office to camera]

Kia ora whānau.
As a doctor, some people think that my job is to look after families when they are sick. Sure, I do, but what I really want to do is prevent our whānau getting sick in the first place.
And I’ve got some good news on that front.

[Doctor Keriana seeing a Mother and baby]

You can help protect your whānau from getting some serious diseases simply by getting free immunisations.
Immunisations helps protect us from diseases that used to harm thousands of Kiwis and left many with permanent damage.

[Images of polio patients]

Not so long ago, kids could get very sick and some died of diseases we can prevent today.
Thanks to immunisation, these preventable diseases are less common now, but they still exist. When they occur, they not only endanger the life of your child, but they also have enormous effects on your family.

[Photo of Alijah Williams]

[Voiceover] Alijah Williams woke up with a sunken face.

[Photo of Alijah in hospital bed connected to breathing tubes]

Within 36 hours, the 7-year-old Auckland boy was crippled by body spasms, unable to swallow and racked with pain.
It all just happened from a cut on his foot - tetanus bacteria live in the soil and can infect even minor wounds, producing a powerful poison.

[Voice of Ian Williams, Alijah's Dad]

It was hideous. He was spasming every three minutes. He was biting his tongue and bleeding. His arms were spasming and he was arching his back, and his whole face and jaw were completely locked.

[Photo of Alijah and his Dad]

Parents like us make the decision to not vaccinate on very little factual information about the actual consequences of the diseases. I fell for the myths and conspiracies theories that people get from the internet. 10 percent of people who get tetanus die and by me choosing not to immunise I put my son at risk.

[Photos of Alijah in hospital bed connected to breathing tubes]

[Voiceover] Alijah spent six weeks in intensive care. He was in hospital for four months, recovery took a year.

[Photo of Alijah in hospital watching a cartoon]

His mother and father had to take a lot of time off work. Their family routine was upended, Alijah missed school, his brother and sister stopped playing sport.

[Title graphic] Serious diseases can be deadly

[Doctor Keriana] Vaccine preventable diseases still occur in New Zealand, with many just a plane ride away.
These diseases are serious and can sometimes be deadly.

When there are pockets of people who aren’t immune, diseases can move through the population quickly.

[Photo of baby with whooping cough in hospital connected to breathing tubes]

[Graphic] Whooping cough outbreak 2010-2013
10,000+ cases, 600+ hospitalised

New Zealand’s whooping cough outbreak caused 10,000 cases in adults and children. Over 600 babies needed hospital treatment and three unimmunised children died.
Babies under 1 are most vulnerable to whooping cough.

[Graphic] Babies under 1 are most vulnerable to whooping cough.

[Photo of a body of a boy covered in measles]

[Animated map of New Zealand/Auckland showing locations of the measles outbreak in 2013/2014]

Between 2013 and 2014, a measles outbreak that started in the Philippines spread to many other countries, including New Zealand. Over 3,000 New Zealanders were quarantined and 48 people needed hospital treatment.

[Graphic] Measles outbreak 2013-2014
3000+ quarantined, 48 hospitalised

This shows how quickly a disease can come back if not enough people are protected.

[Graphic] Animated photo montage of various diseases

Those are just two of the serious diseases that New Zealand’s free National immunisation programme protects against.

[Mother on camera] I was a bit worried about the immunisations.

[Dr Keriana puts plaster on baby after immunisation]

But we gave her lots of cuddles and they were really friendly and answered all our questions. I thought it was going to be a big deal, but it was over really quickly. We’re really pleased she’s protected.

[Dr Keriana] Immunisation helps stop the spread of disease and it protects our whole community.

[Voiceover] Protect your whānau. Immunise on time.

[End title] Immunisation.
Our best protection.
For more info

How does immunisation work?

Immunisation shows your body’s natural defence system how to fight off germs before they can make you sick. Learn more about how this process works.

Title: Immunisation and how it works

[Kids playing football outside]

[Voiceover] Immunisation is a simple and effective way to help protect children (and adults) against serious diseases.

By immunising your child, you give them the best start to a healthy future, and you protect your community by reducing the spread of disease.

[Slide showing chapters of the video - Immunisation and how it works, How your immune system works, How immunisation works, Community immunity, Why it's important to immunise on time, every time, Vaccine safety]

[Slide - How your immune system works]

[Dr Kiri Bird standing at a hospital reception desk]

Kia ora whānau, I’m Dr Kiri Bird.

Every day your body comes across many different types of germs.

Some of these can make you very sick.

[Animation show a child fighting off germs with their immune system]

Your body has a natural defence system, called the immune system, which helps fight off germs that can cause serious disease.

[Animation showing antibodies attacking germs]

One of the ways your body fights off germs is by making special antibodies that know what a particular germ looks like, and can find and destroy it.

The first time your body meets a new germ, it can take some time for your body to make these antibodies.

Until those germs are destroyed, you might get sick.

But later on, if you come across the same germ again, your body can remember it and fight it off before you get sick.

[Dr Kiri Bird standing at a hospital reception desk]

This is why once you’ve had a disease, you usually don’t catch it again because your body fights off the germ before you can get sick.

[Slide - How immunisation works]

Immunisation protects against diseases in the same way.

[Animation show how immunisation affects your immune system]

It gives your immune system a practice run with a broken-up or weakened germ so it won’t give you the disease.

Your body learns how to recognise those germs and is ready to fight them off before they can make you sick.

You may get a fever or a headache after you are given a vaccine.

This is a common response to the vaccine and should pass quickly.

[Animation showing what happens once you've been immunised and you come across the germs again]

If you’re worried at any time, talk with your doctor or nurse.

Once you’ve been immunised, If you come across the same germ again, your body will remember it and fight off the germ before you get sick.

This is how immunisation protects against disease.

[Slide - Community immunity]

[Dr Kiri Bird sitting inside a doctor's clinic]

There’s another way that immunisation can help protect our whānau, and that’s by making sure that we don’t even come into contact with preventable diseases in the first place.

[Animation showing the differences between when only a few people are immunised disease is more likely to spread.]

[Voiceover] When only a few people are immunised, diseases can spread very quickly.

[Animation showing when a large amount of people in the community are immunised, the disease is less likely to spread]

When only a few people are immunised, diseases can spread very quickly.

When more people are immunised, diseases can’t spread as quickly – but are still able to spread.

But when most people are immunised, disease can’t spread through our community and so most people stay well.

There are always a few people in every community who are either too young to be immunised or have a weakened immune system, such as cancer patients.

These people can get very sick when they catch a disease, so it’s really important that everyone around them is immunised.

So, if enough people are immunised, the community as a whole can be protected.

This is called community immunity.

[Dr Kiri Bird sitting inside a doctor's clinic]

In New Zealand, measles outbreaks among teenagers and young adults are still common because many of them were not immunised as young children.

[Shots of various media stories reporting on the spread of whooping cough and measles]

[Voiceover] Diseases like whooping cough or measles can spread quickly.

Diseases like whooping cough or measles can spread quickly.

If most of the people in a community are not immunised, these diseases can spread rapidly and lead to an outbreak.

Community immunity can help to prevent this risk.

[Dr Kiri Bird sitting inside a doctor's clinic]

When we choose to immunise, we not only protect ourselves, we protect our whānau, and our whole community.

[Slide - Why it's important to immunise on time, every time]

The National Immunisation Schedule sets out the best time to get immunised so that your child can be protected when they need it most.

For example, women need more protection against influenza while they are pregnant.

[Shot of Mother holding young baby]

Babies need to be protected as young as possible against whooping cough and other serious diseases.

In New Zealand, baby’s first immunisations are due at 6 weeks, 3 months and 5 months.

Some vaccines are recommended at a slightly older age.

[Slide showing a 12 month old, 15 month old and 4 year old children]

At age 12 months, young children get immunised against measles, as well as boosters for an earlier vaccine.

[Slide showing all age groups of the diseases they need to be immunised for]

Boosters are important as they remind your immune system’s memory to keep protecting against harmful germs.

[Dr Kiri Bird sitting inside a doctor's clinic]

It’s important to immunise on time. Delaying immunisation can put your child at greater risk of catching a serious disease.

[Slide - Vaccine safety]

[Professor Swee Tan in a lab observing disease samples under microscope]

All vaccines used in New Zealand have been thoroughly tested to make sure they are safe and that they work well before they are approved, a process that can take many years.

Safety monitoring continues even after the vaccines are approved and being used by millions of people around the world.

[Dr Kiri Bird sitting inside a doctor's clinic]

That’s how we know the benefits of immunisation far outweigh any potential risk, and why immunisation is recommended by the Ministry of Health and health professionals.

[Voiceover] Protect your whanau, immunise on time.

Protect your whānau, immunise on time.

When should you get immunised?

The National Immunisation Schedule provides a series of free vaccinations timed for different life stages. Immunising on time provides the best protection. Missing or delaying a vaccination can put your family’s health at risk.

Find out more:

How do you get immunised?

Your doctor or nurse can provide the vaccinations, which are generally given as injections in the arm or leg (rotavirus vaccine is given as drops of liquid into the mouth). Contact your family doctor to make an appointment. Pharmacists, midwives and other specially trained health professionals can also offer some vaccines.

Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

Requesting your child’s immunisation records

Parents and guardians may request their child’s immunisation information, or request that information be corrected, at any time.

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