Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program

Version 10.0 (released 25th March, 2021)

SA Health recommends
up to 70 CPD hours

20 weeks access

$225 per user (AUD)


This course aims to equip health professionals with knowledge and skills to competently deliver a high quality and safe immunisation service by:

  • introducing the learner to comprehensive information on the theoretical and practical components of immunisation
  • guiding the learner to utilise the relevant resources that support best practice when delivering an immunisation service, and
  • assisting the learner to assess their understanding of the relevant information.

The course consists of 4 modules that must be completed in sequential order.

Participants have 20 weeks to complete the course from the date of purchase.


Click on each module below for more information

Module 1 aims to introduce the learner to immunisation from a public health perspective, discusses the effectiveness of immunisation programs and immunisation coverage rates. The National Immunisation Program Schedule is introduced and the governing structures that guide the vaccine recommendations and schedule points for administration.

The module delivers information on the fundamentals of microbiology and immunology, providing a foundation for further understanding of the disease process, the chain of infection, vaccine development and how vaccines work.

Levels of many vaccine preventable diseases are low in Australia, but there continues to be a risk of diseases being imported and others continue to occur in Australia. To understand the need to be protected against these diseases, it is important to know how each disease is caused and spread, the severity of illness and possible outcomes including death.

Module 2 presents information on each vaccine preventable disease followed by information on the vaccine designed to protect against the disease.

Module 3 will introduce the learner to some of the specific groups that, for a variety of reasons, are at higher risk of some vaccine preventable diseases. Not all groups at risk will be discussed and the module will focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, pregnant women and preterm babies, immunocompromised individuals, those at occupational risk and newly-arrived refugees.

This module will aim to assist the health practitioner to apply the relevant legislative requirements to clinical practice, gain valid consent and effectively communicate risk in the clinical setting.

Module 4 describes the requirement for vaccine storage and the national recommendations that are to be integrated into practice to ensure vaccines remain potent and effective so that when administered, they provide protection against these vaccine preventable diseases in the community.

This module will introduce the learner to the requirements necessary to deliver a high quality and safe immunisation service and provide the learner with an understanding of the key elements of vaccine safety.

The learner is informed of the potential adverse events after the administration of a vaccine, how to advise the individuals of these and how adverse events are reported, monitored and investigated to ensure community safety and maintain confidence in immunisation programs. The importance of the need for immunisation providers to be proficient in all aspects of the clinical encounter will be discussed and the steps involved in calculating a catch-up schedule.


Each module contains multiple choice assessment questions.

  • You can attempt each question twice and feedback is provided.
  • If you fail an assessment question, it is recommended to go back to the course content to ensure you understand the information prior to attempting the question again.
  • All questions within each module must be completed to unlock the next module. You must achieve 90% in the module assessments to progress to the next module or an exam.
  • If you have not achieved 90%, you are required to reset the assessment using the Reset Assessment tab and begin all questions again.


Modules 2, 3 and 4 each have a short exam with 10 multiple choice questions.

  • You must achieve 90% for each exam.
  • If you fail an exam, only one re-sit is available.
  • There is no reset process for an exam.
  • The exams are open book style. Open the necessary clinical resources in another tab during the exam process to ensure your answers are correct.

Expectation of course learners

  • Allow up to 70 hours for course completion in line with the 70 CPD hours allocated.
  • Read all the information, view the Recommended readings and complete all the activities, which will assist with the assessment and exam process.
  • Seek assistance from Content Support if required.

Certificate of Completion

At the successful completion of all the course requirements, including passing all exams, you will be eligible for a Certificate of Completion.

Record of Study

On completion of the course, all learners will be able to print a Record of Study to assist with claiming Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Continuing Professional Development

SA Health recommends up to 70 CPD hours to be claimed.


This immunisation education program will shortly be submitted to Health Education Services Australia (HESA) for assessment against the National Immunisation Education Framework for Health Professionals, for this program to be nationally recognised.

The Department for Health and Wellbeing is affiliated with the University of South Australia, a Registered Training Organisation.


Health professionals play an integral role in delivering immunisation programs, and in order to provide a highly successful service, they need to attain a high level of knowledge in respect to vaccines and immunisation program requirements.

Over the past decade there has been expansive growth in the number of vaccines added to the immunisation schedule and an increase in the number of groups eligible to receive free vaccines through the National Immunisation Program. This expansion has resulted in increased complexity of the immunisation schedule and immunisation programs in general.

Immunisation has become a specialised area of practice and this course provides valuable information for all immunisation providers with the opportunity to attain this knowledge through easy to access online learning. Current course enrolments include, and are not limited to, registered nurses, enrolled nurses, ambulance officers, general practitioners and Aboriginal Health Care Workers.

This online learning program has been developed by immunisation and education experts from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB), Department for Health and Wellbeing, South Australia, the Education and Training Department of the Women and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia and we acknowledge the contribution by the Communicable Disease Control Directorate, WA Health.

Why health professionals need to learn about immunisation

Immunisation programs

Immunisation is a population health program that targets every individual at key points throughout the life cycle commencing at birth. Early vaccination programs consisted of oral polio and triple antigen and were relatively simple to manage and parents readily offered their child to be vaccinated on the basis disease was prevalent and governments recommended vaccination. The immunisation landscape has changed considerably since that time and health professionals are now expected to be well informed across a range of different vaccines and different vaccine types, their mode of action, their risks and benefits, their limitations and the risks and complications of the diseases they aim to prevent.

The success of immunisation programs in Australia has resulted in a decline of vaccine preventable diseases and the absence of disease has shifted community awareness towards concerns about vaccine side effects rather than the effects from the diseases they aim to prevent. Information and misinformation is readily available via the internet and it can be difficult for the community and health professionals to interpret the plethora of information that is available. It is important that health professionals can respond effectively to community concerns and are confident and competent immunisation providers if community confidence in immunisation programs is to be maintained.

Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program

The purpose of this program is to enhance the existing skills and knowledge of health professionals who are involved in any discussion with clients or their families about vaccines and immunisation. This course will introduce the resources the health professional will continue to use in an ongoing capacity within their role as an immuniser.

Registered Nurses delivering immunisation services independent of medical orders will be provided with the required knowledge for them to be sufficiently competent to manage all aspects of service delivery safely and effectively. Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program is an accepted program linked to legislation in some states and territories and contains a robust and equitable assessment process to ensure the required standards are met.


If you are having difficulty with understanding the content of the course, you can contact us by phone during business hours (ACST) on 1300 232 272 or anytime by email: Health.ContentSupport@sa.gov.au and the email will be actioned by the same or next business day.

If you need content or technical support at any time, you can find the link on the top right hand side of each screen throughout the course.


Australian Immunisation Handbook (Handbook)

The digital online version of the Australian Immunisation Handbook (Handbook) provides up-to-date information about all aspects of immunisation. Where there is relevant content, links are provided to the related sections of the Handbook. Ensure you use the online version of the Handbook as previous printed versions contain out of date information.

Australian Immunisation Handbook

Navigating the digital Handbook

Acknowledgement is given to the Australian Government Department of Health for the inclusion of the information sourced from The Australian Immunisation Handbook.

Keeping updated with immunisation

The following link provides a useful resource with websites and state/territory information and sites, to help keep you up-to-date with immunisation information. This resource can be saved on your desk top or printed off for future use.

Useful Websites for Immunisation Information

Interactive Schedule

Interactive Schedule

An interactive Schedule is used throughout the course.

The Interactive Schedule highlights the key points where vaccines are scheduled to be given. Click on the bold antigen for key facts about that vaccine.

The schedule used in this program is the National Immunisation Program Schedule, which includes all the recommendations for the Commonwealth funded vaccines. It is indicated on this Schedule if only specific cohorts are eligible for additional vaccines due to increased risk of disease or disease severity and complications.

Specific state and territory schedules are developed with schedule changes and include the nationally funded vaccines and any additional vaccines recommended and funded by the state or territory.

Your feedback and evaluation of this course

We are interested to know what you think about the course in order for us to continuously improve it. There will be opportunity for you to provide feedback about the course once you have completed the course.


State and Territory legislation governs whether successful completion of this course allows the health professional to immunise independent of a medical order. Currently Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program is an approved training program in South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

The information provided in this course is current as at the date of the last review.

A panel will review evaluation feedback and program content annually. If any change to information occurs in between that period, it will be addressed at the next review date; however, any schedule changes will be updated if required.

This course introduces the participant to the major websites that carry up to date information relating to immunisation and any planned changes to the vaccine schedules thus ensuring participants can maintain currency of information.

Links to websites are used throughout the course. Every attempt is made to maintain these links. If a link fails to work, a self-generated internet search may be required.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this training course may contain sensitive material including images of deceased persons.