What is vaccination?
Vaccination is a simple and effective way to protect you and your baby from certain infections.
Vaccination prepares the immune system to fight against a future infection. Vaccines contain tiny amounts of dead or weakened viruses or bacteria, called antigens. The immune system responds to these antigens, training the immune system without you getting sick.
This means that your body is better prepared to fight the disease if exposed to it in the future.
Most vaccines are given by injection but some are given as oral drops.
Learn more about the difference between vaccination and immunisation.
Why is vaccination especially important if I’m pregnant?
Pregnancy changes the way your immune system works. This means you are more susceptible to certain infections and illnesses that can be harmful to you and your growing baby.
Following some simple steps will help reduce the risk to you and your baby of developing these health issues.
Should I receive a vaccine against COVID-19?
If you are pregnant, you can get the Pfizer (Cominarty) or Moderna (Spikevax) vaccines against COVID-19 at any stage of your pregnancy.
If you are planning a pregnancy, you can also receive the vaccine. You don’t need to avoid becoming pregnant or delaying pregnancy after getting vaccinated.
For more information, read COVID-19 vaccination and pregnancy.
I’m planning a pregnancy. Which vaccinations should I get?
If you are planning a pregnancy, there are vaccines you need before becoming pregnant. This is because some vaccines are not recommended during pregnancy.
As well as the routine vaccinations such as tetanus and polio, if you are pregnant, you should check with your doctor to see if you have immunity against hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox (varicella), whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza.
Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. If you are planning a pregnancy, your doctor can check your immunity to rubella with a blood test. Your doctor may recommend a booster vaccination, to help protect your unborn baby if you are exposed to rubella while you’re pregnant.
You should wait 4 weeks after receiving the rubella vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can cause severe illness for both you and your unborn baby. Your doctor can check if you have immunity to chickenpox virus with a simple blood. If you are not protected, you’ll need 2 doses of the vaccine for full immunity.
You should wait 4 weeks after receiving this vaccine before trying to get pregnant.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause long-lasting liver damage. If you are planning a pregnancy, ask your doctor if you need to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Protection against pneumococcal disease is recommended for smokers and people with diabetes or chronic heart, lung or kidney disease. The rates pneumococcal disease are higher among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children. If you are planning a pregnancy, check with your doctor if you should be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.
Some of the vaccines you need before you travel to other countries may not be advised during pregnancy. Find out more about travel and pregnancy.
Which vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy?
Influenza, whooping cough and COVID-19 vaccines are the only vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, influenza and whooping cough vaccines are provided free through the National Immunisation Program. COVID-19 vaccines are currently free for everyone in Australia.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Whooping cough can cause serious illness and even death in babies less than 6 months old. It is now recommended that you receive a single dose of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination between 20 and 32 weeks in each pregnancy. If you get this vaccine during pregnancy, the antibodies to whooping cough will be passed through your blood to your baby. The vaccine will also reduce your chance of catching whooping cough and passing it onto your baby.
Influenza (flu) can cause serious illness. If you catch the flu during pregnancy, you are twice as likely to need care in hospital as someone who isn’t pregnant. The influenza vaccine is safe and will reduce your chance of serious complications from the flu.
If you are pregnant, you can receive the flu vaccine for free through the National Immunisation Program before, during or after pregnancy. There is an updated version of the flu vaccine every year, and yearly vaccination protects you against new strains of the virus. It also reduces your risk of spreading influenza to your family.
Babies are also at higher risk of complications if they do catch the flu. Getting the flu vaccine during your pregnancy will provide protection to your newborn for the first 6 months after birth.
For more information about the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, visit the Department of Health and Aged Care.
If you catch COVID-19 during pregnancy, both you and your baby have a higher risk of complications. You are more likely to need care in hospital and need breathing support (intubation). Your baby is more likely to be born early (premature), need help after birth and has a higher risk of stillbirth.
The best way to reduce these risks is by being vaccinated against COVID-19. Check with your doctor that you have received all the recommended doses.
You can safely receive Pfizer (Cominarty) or Moderna (Spikevax) vaccines at any stage of pregnancy. COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone in Australia, even if you don’t have a Medicare card.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy, visit the Department of Health and Aged Care.
Resources and Support
Find a vaccine clinic, and book your immunisation with healthdirect’s Find a health service tool.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Watch this video to learn more about immunisation during pregnancy from a health expert.
Video provided by Immunisation Coalition.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: September 2022