Diseases we immunise against

Phone 0800 IMMUNE (466 863) or visit www.immune.org.nz if you have any questions on immunisation, or contact a PlunketLine nurse on freephone 0800 933 922

Raising Children video 


This video story on the Raising Children site looks at the New Zealand Ministry of Health funded vaccines that are free to all babies and children. 

When to immunise

Immunisation starts at 6 weeks because it is shown to be safe and effective. Early protection is important because the younger the baby, usually the more serious the disease.

Immunisations are usually given when your baby is:

  1. 6 weeks old
  2. 3 and 5 months
  3. 15 months
  4. 4 years.

Having all the immunisations is important for the best chance of strong protection. If your baby misses a dose, you can still catch up. Plunket staff talk with parents and caregivers about immunisation, and the potential health risks for children if they are not immunised.

Chickenpox (Varicella)

Chickenpox (varicella) is a very contagious (catching) disease. It causes small itchy blisters on your skin.


Diphtheria bacteria infect the throat. The toxin affects nerves and muscles involved in breathing and swallowing, and also affects the heart.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to fever, nausea, tiredness, dark urine and yellow skin (jaundice). Children with hepatitis B disease usually develop only a very mild illness, but they are more likely to become carriers of the disease. Carriers are at greater risk of liver disease and liver cancer later in life.

Hib disease

Hib disease (Haemophilius influenzae type b) is caused by bacteria. It most often leads to ear infections and pneumonia but can cause meningitis (an infection of the membrane around the brain), or infection and swelling in the throat that blocks the entrance to the windpipe.


The measles virus causes fever, a rash, runny nose, cough and eye infection. It can lead to fits, pneumonia and inflammation of the brain. This inflammation can cause brain damage or death.

Read more at the Ministry of Health website: Immunise your child against measles.


The mumps virus causes fever, headache and swelling of the glands around the face, and in boys can cause inflammation of the testicles. Mumps may cause meningitis but children usually recover fully. Very rarely, mumps can cause an inflammation of the brain that can lead to deafness or death.

Pertussis (whooping cough)

Whooping cough is caused by bacteria that damage the lungs and airways. This leads to coughing spells so strong that it is hard to breathe, and babies may vomit. Children often gasp for air and some make a ‘whooping’ sound. Whooping cough may lead to pneumonia.

Download Whooping cough (pertussis) Information for parents and caregivers PDF 1MB

Read more at the Ministry of Health website: Immunise baby against whooping cough.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that may cause illnesses ranging from relatively minor to very serious. These can be sinusitis and ear infections, or the more serious illnesses pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia (blood infection).

The bacteria are carried in the throat, often without causing disease, and are spread through the air during coughing and sneezing.

Serious infection is more common in infants and young children under the age of 5, and children and adults of any age who have certain ongoing medical conditions.


Polio is caused by a virus and can be either a mild or very serious illness. The mild illness causes fever, nausea and vomiting. The serious illness causes a fever and stiffening in the muscles. It can also affect the nerves and paralyse different parts of the body, including the breathing and swallowing muscles. Paralysis is usually permanent.

Rotavirus (gastroenteritis)

Rotavirus is a common disease that almost all babies and children catch before they are 5 years old. Most infections occur in the first 2 years of life.

Rotavirus is caused by a virus and is very contagious (easy to catch). It causes vomiting and diarrhoea, and can lead to serious dehydration (lack of fluids) and in some cases death. The illness lasts from 3 to 8 days.

The virus is spread by contact with the stools (poos, tūtae) of an infected baby or child. This can happen if people don’t wash their hands properly after going to the toilet or changing nappies.

Rubella (German measles)

In children, rubella is usually a mild viral illness with a rash, but in teenagers and adults it causes swollen glands, joint pain and a rash. If a pregnant woman catches rubella, especially early in her pregnancy, it is very likely that the disease will affect her baby and cause one or more serious problems, including deafness, blindness, heart defects and brain damage.


Tetanus bacteria produce toxins that attack the nerves and make muscles tense and stiff. When the toxins attack the breathing muscles, people find it hard to breathe.

For help and advice call PlunketLine 0800 933 922, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If your child is sick please call Healthline, 0800 611 116, New Zealand's 24-hour telephone health advice service. All calls are answered by registered nurses.
In an emergency phone 111.
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