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A young girl in a yellow shirt is receiving a vaccine injection in her upper arm from a medical professional, who appears to be a nurse or doctor. The healthcare worker is focused on the injection, ensuring proper technique, while the girl looks away, possibly to avoid the sight of the needle. Both are indoors, and the setting suggests a clinical environment conducive to medical procedures


Vaccination is the process of giving you a type of medicine called a vaccine which protects you against a specific infection.

What is vaccination and immunisation?

Vaccination is the process of giving you a type of medicine called a vaccine which helps to protect you from being infected by virus or bacteria.

Once you have been vaccinated, your body develops immunity to that infection (through antibodies) – this means that if you come into contact with that virus or bacteria later, you are unlikely to catch that infection or you may have a less severe illness.

Some vaccinations also need a booster, such as Tetnus vaccines, as the immunity they provide can decrease over time. This means even if you’ve had an injection in the past, your body might need an extra dose later to top up your immunity.

What vaccinations do people get at school?

Most young people get their vaccines at high school. Examples of vaccines you can have at high school include:

  • Combination diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (whooping cough) (dTpa) vaccine –protects against three diseases and requires boosters (recommended every 10 years. Diphtheria is a rare infection which can cause a swelling of tissues in the throat and difficulty breathing. Tetanus is an infection that causes spasming of the muscles and difficulty breathing. Pertussis causes a bad cough, which can be very serious if spread to infants.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine – protects against 9 types of HPV. HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, penis, vulva, anus and throat and genital warts.
  • Meningococcal ACWY vaccine protects against four types of meningococcal disease (A, C, W and Y). Meningococcal disease can cause infection of the tissues around the brain (meningitis) or infection of the blood (septicaemia).

What if I missed my vaccinations at school?

Some young people miss out on getting their vaccine at school, for example, if they have been away from school on the vaccination day. If this happens, they might be able to get the vaccine later that year.

NSW Health will write to parents/guardians who give consent for vaccination if catch-up vaccination will be offered at school in the following year or to recommend that they should go to their local doctor to have the vaccine they need.

For more information visit the NSW Health website about vaccines given in high school or the NSW Health website about vaccinations for young people aged 17-19.

I’m worried about getting a vaccine or the side effects of a vaccine.

If you’re worried about getting a vaccination, it helps to understand exactly what vaccines you are going to have, what they protect you against, what will happen on the day at school when you have a vaccine and how you might feel afterwards.

Some things that people can be worried about when receiving vaccination:

  • How much the needle hurts.
  • How they might react to the needle or the vaccination.
  • Side effects of the vaccination.
  • What is in the vaccination or how it might impact their health.
  • Some people are afraid of needles and very occasionally faint.

If you are worried about any of these issues it is helpful to talk to your doctor or school nurse about your concerns.

The doctor or nurse can give you information on the vaccine, how it works, and if it might impact you in any way and they can help you through the process. You can also have a friend with you when you have the vaccine.

Sides effects of vaccines

You may experience minor side effects following vaccination. Most reactions are mild and last no more than a couple of days and you will recover without any problems.

Common side effects include:

  • mild pain, redness and swelling at the injection site,
  • mild fever,
  • mild headache,
  • mild aches and pains.

What to do if a local reaction occurs at the injection site:

  • put a dampcloth on the injection sitre to relieve tenderness,
  • take paraceamol for pain,
  • drink extra fluids.

If you have these side effects, there is no risk, and it does not mean there is a problem with the vaccination.

But if you are concerned that the side effects are getting worse or are unusual, call your doctor to discuss what to do.

COVID-19 vaccines

There are currently a number of vaccines available for COVID-19. The vaccine recommended for you will depend on your age and and other eligibility requirements.

Information on COVID-19 vaccines is constantly changing due ot the changing circumstances around the COVID-19 virus.

It is best to check the latest information on the NSW Health website to keep up to date with COVID-19 information. You can also read the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Everyone aged 5 years and older can now book a vaccination through the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

Health services will make every effort to help you to receive your COVID-19 vaccination. It’s important to be respectful and work with a GP (doctor) to find out which vaccine is right for you.

COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia regardless of Medicare or visa status.

To book an appointment, use the Vaccine Clinic Finder.

If you have a question or need information about COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccines:

Vaccines for travelling

If you plan on travelling overseas, talk to your GP (doctor) to see what vaccinations or other medications you might need to take with you.

It’s a good idea to visit your doctor at least a month before you plan on travelling.

You can get a copy of your vaccination history from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) at any time by:

You should also check if the countries you are visiting require you to have proof of specific vaccinations.

For example, to travel to Colombia, you need to have a Yellow Fever vaccination and a certificate to prove that you had it 30 days before going to the country.

Sometimes a vaccination isn’t needed but other medication might be prescribed to you, such as malaria tablets if you are travelling to some parts of Thailand or Indonesia.

For more information and tips on staying healthy while travelling, visit NSW Health.

Frequently asked questions

Got more questions? We’ve got you covered. Here are some commonly asked queries about this topic to help you understand it better. Remember, no question is too small or too big – we’re here to help!

What is vaccination?
Vaccination is the process of administering a vaccine to help protect against infections caused by viruses or bacteria​.
Immunisation is the development of immunity to a specific infection following vaccination​.
Yes, some vaccinations require boosters, like the COVID-19 vaccines, to maintain immunity over time.
Vaccines for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, human papillomavirus, and meningococcal ACWY are examples of vaccines given at school
You might get the vaccine later that year or the following year, or be advised to visit a local doctor for vaccination.
Discussing your concerns with your doctor or school nurse, and understanding the vaccines and their side effects can be helpful.
Yes, individuals aged 5 years and older can book a COVID-19 vaccination.
The NSW Health website provides updated information on COVID-19 vaccines
Visit your doctor at least a month before travelling to discuss necessary vaccinations and other medications.
You can access your vaccination history through your Medicare online account, the Medicare Express Plus App, or by calling the AIR General Enquiries Line.

Need emergency assistance?

As the peak body for young people and youth services in NSW, Youth Action does not provide direct referrals to support services. If you are in distress or require urgent assistance, the following support lines are available.

If there’s immediate risk of harm to yourself or other, please call:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 (Crisis & Suicide prevention support 24/7)

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 (Mental health support 24/7) 

Link2Home: 1800 152 152 (For those experiencing homelessness 24/7)

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 (24/7)

ParentLine: 1300 1300 52 (9am to 9pm weekdays, 4pm to 9pm weekends)

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