Why be vaccinated?

Vaccinations protect you, your child and the community from infectious diseases, such as polio and whooping cough (pertussis). Before vaccines were developed, these diseases caused illness, disability and even death.

Share one family's sad experience with whooping cough and find out why it's so important to vaccinate against this potentially fatal infection (from the Tonic series produced with assistance of NPS).

Most vaccines are given in childhood, but teenagers, adults and older people may also need vaccination later on in life. This is especially important if you are at increased risk of infection because you:

  • have a weakened immune system (due to HIV infection, certain cancers that affect the immune system, or medicines that suppress your immune system)
  • are at risk of complications from an infection (if you are pregnant, older, or you have other medical conditions)
  • plan to travel to areas where diseases are present that do not occur in Australia.

Being vaccinated against diseases protects not only you from infection (i.e. makes you immune to the disease), but also protects everyone in the community as a whole, by reducing the number of people who can catch the infections and pass them on to others. This is called ‘herd immunity’.

‘Herd immunity’ also reduces the risk of catching an infection for people who may not have been vaccinated for medical reasons (e.g. because they have a weakened immune system due to cancer, HIV infection, or medicines they are taking).

What is herd immunity?

Eradicating an infectious disease can only happen if everyone is protected from it.

If enough people are vaccinated and protected against a disease, the infection will not be able to spread. This protects the population as a whole from infection.

Polio is an excellent example of herd immunity and how a disease can be eradicated by making sure that most people are vaccinated in childhood.

On the other hand, if fewer people are not protected against a disease, because they have not been vaccinated, it is more likely that the disease will return as a serious and potentially life-threatening public health hazard.

For more information read our MedicinesTalk article on vaccinations.