Whānau Ora

Pēpi & Tamariki Immunisations

Pēpi are born with some passive immunity to certain infections because antibodies are passed on to them from their māmā before birth. Breast-fed babies get additional antibodies from their mother’s milk. However, this immunity does not last long. Pēpi and tamariki need immunisation to provide ongoing protection from many life-threatening diseases. Over a million people around the world die every year from diseases that can be prevented by immunisation. Most of these diseases have become rare in New Zealand thanks to immunisation programmes. Some diseases, such as whooping cough and pneumococcal disease are still common. Many of the diseases that are now rare in New Zealand still exist in other countries and are brought into the country by travellers from time to time, for example, measles. Some diseases will always be present, such as tetanus, which is caused by bacteria that live in the soil. Immunisation is your choice – please korero with us if you have any pātai.

Immunisation starts at 6 weeks old. This allows your pēpi to start developing protection as soon as possible when the passive immunity from their māmā begins to wear off. Pēpi and tamariki can catch diseases at any time. It’s important they are immunised on time, every time for the best possible protection against many serious illnesses. If you think your tamaiti – or anyone in your whānau – may not have had all the immunisations or if you’re not sure, korero with us. We can tell you which immunisations you and your whānau should have. Some tamariki will need extra vaccines, such as the influenza immunisation, if they have certain long-term health conditions, such as diabetes.

The National Immunisation Schedule recommends that children be immunised for protection from 12 preventable diseases before they are 5 years old. The diseases are:




Diphtheria is a serious disease that can quickly lead to breathing problems. It is caused by bacteria that attack the lining of the nose, mouth and throat. It can damage the heart and in severe cases it can lead to death. Diphtheria is now rare in New Zealand thanks to immunisation. However, there is still a risk that diphtheria could enter New Zealand from overseas.




Tetanus is a painful disease that affects the muscles. It can cause breathing problems, muscle stiffness and severe muscle spasms. It is caused by a common bacteria found in soil and enters the body through cuts and grazes. The only way to build immunity is by immunisation.



Whooping cough

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a serious infection that can cause coughing and choking that make it hard to breathe. It can last for up to 10 weeks and some people will need hospital care. Whooping cough is a common disease in New Zealand. This disease is most serious in infants.




Polio is a virus found in the nose and throat. It is spread by coughing, sneezing and sharing drink bottles. It infects the bowel and can attack the nervous system. In severe cases it may cause paralysis and even death.

Polio has disappeared from New Zealand and most parts of the world as a result of immunisation. However, there is still a risk that polio could enter New Zealand from overseas.



Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that is passed on through body fluids. It can be passed from pregnant women to their babies, particularly during birth. Hepatitis B causes liver infection and serious illness. Infected children are more likely to carry the virus long term and can eventually develop liver cancer or liver failure. Hepatitis B has declined considerably since the vaccine was introduced in New Zealand.




Hib is bacteria found in the nose and throat and spread by coughing and sneezing. It can cause a number of major illnesses, including meningitis, epiglottitis, blood poisoning and pneumonia.




Rotavirus is a highly infectious type of gastroenteritis or tummy bug. Rotavirus can cause:

  • vomiting (being sick)
  • diarrhoea
  • fever (high temperature)
  • abdominal (tummy) pain.

Rotavirus can lead to severe dehydration and in some cases death. While death is extremely unlikely in New Zealand, many tamariki are hospitalised with this disease.




Pneumococcal is a serious infection common in children younger than 5 years old. It is caused by a bacteria found in the throat. It is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. (Pneumococcal infection is also common in elderly people and people with certain medical conditions).




Measles is a very infectious virus. Before immunisation was introduced, nearly all children caught measles. Measles causes a rash, high fever, runny nose, cough and sore watery eyes. Severe cases can result in pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling in the brain), diarrhoea and rarely, death.




Mumps is caused by a virus and is spread through the air. Mumps causes fever, headache and swelling of the glands around the face. Mumps can also cause meningitis and encephalitis. Infertility among young men who get mumps is rare.




Rubella is usually a mild, viral illness. It causes a rash, fever and swollen glands in children. It is extremely dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause deafness, blindness and brain damage in an unborn baby.



Chickenpox  (varicella)

Chickenpox (varicella) is a common virus that causes an itchy skin rash and blisters. It is usually mild, but can lead to skin infections and more serious complications such as blood infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, and eye and kidney problems. Without vaccination nearly all children will get chickenpox between the ages of 2 and 10 years old. Teenagers and adults are more likely to develop complications than children. Chickenpox is serious for pregnant women because it can cause damage to unborn babies.

All of these illnesses can lead to death if they are not treated quickly. Hib used to be the most common cause of life-threatening bacterial infection in children under 5 years old. Immunisation has made it rare in New Zealand.

Pēpi and tamariki have the best chance of developing immunity against these diseases if they receive the immunisations at the recommended ages.



Covid 19 – Tamariki aged 5-11 years

Tamariki aged 5-11 years can get the tamariki version of the Pfizer vaccine. It is a lower dose and smaller volume than the Pfizer vaccine given to adults and is administered with a smaller needle. At this time, there is no vaccine available for tamariki under 5.

Tamariki will need two doses of the vaccine to be fully immunised. It is recommended that they are administered at least eight weeks apart.