Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program
(HESA Accredited)

Version 9.0 (released 25th March, 2024)

100% online course

SA Health recommends
up to 70 CPD hours

20 weeks access

$350 per user (AUD)


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

  • introducing the learner to immunisation as a public health measure in Australia and globally
  • explaining immunology principles of vaccination and vaccine types and components
  • discussing the epidemiology of vaccine preventable diseases and explaining the National Immunisation Program in Australia
  • explaining the legislation and ethics with immunisation practice
  • providing the comprehensive requirements to provide a safe and effective immunisation service.

The Program is divided into four modules, with the information provided under sub-headings. The modules must be completed in sequential order.

The Program is self-paced but must be completed within a period of 20 weeks from the date of registration. A general timeline for completion of the program is provided in the Student Program Handbook to assist those students who benefit from a structured learning schedule.

Program applicants

This Program has been designed to provide an easily accessible high quality immunisation education program for registered nurses and midwives seeking authorisation to possess and administer vaccines without a medical order. Registered nurses and midwives are required to be registered with AHPRA to access the Program. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals with an AHPRA number are strongly encouraged to enrol for the Program.

Additional health professionals with an AHPRA number are able to register for the Program, however due to the comprehensive content and the robust assessments within the Program; they may wish to consider an alternate immunisation education program to meet their learning needs.


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 requirements 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.

Exam 1 is presented as multiple-choice questions and cloze exercises. A targeted minimal score of 90% is to be achieved within 2 attempts. The questions will cover the steps that are included in immunisation practice to provide a safe and effective immunisation service.

Exam 2 will be to work out the catch-up vaccines required for two children that are under 10 years of age. This exam will be marked as a Pass or Fail, and 100% correct must be obtained for a Pass.

Program assessments

Multiple types of interactive activities and formative assessments are presented throughout the four Modules of the Program. There are multiple choice question assessments in each of the modules that must be passed within 2 attempts to progress. The final summative assessments are based on a scenario of an immunisation encounter and include catch–up calculations.

Assessment types:

  • Module 1–4: Multiple choice questions (MCQ)
  • Exam 1: Multiple choice questions (MCQ) and cloze exercises
  • Exam 2: catch-up calculations

Pass mark required:

  • Accumulative score of at least 80% for MCQs throughout Modules 1–4
  • A pass mark of at least 90% for exam 1 within 2 attempts
  • A Pass/Fail for the catch-up calculations – 100% correct for a Pass within three attempts

Program assessments are electronically marked, ensuring consistency, reliability and fairness for all students. For successful completion of the Program, all assessments must be passed to the required mark within the allocated timeframe. A general timeline for completion of the program is provided in the Student Program Handbook to assist those students who benefit from a structured learning schedule.

Clinical assessment

A clinical assessment is not required to successfully complete this Program. Depending on skills and experience, many registered nurses and other health practitioners may already have the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities that underpin clinical performance applicable to providing an immunisation service.

Those new to immunisation and those who feel they require further development of clinical competency are strongly encouraged to arrange clinical supervision from an experienced immuniser and this should be followed by a clinical competency assessment. For more information please see the Clinical Competency Assessment Guide (PDF 266KB).

Certificate of Completion

Health professionals who successfully complete and meet all Program requirements will be awarded a Certificate of Completion.

State and Territory legislation governs whether this Certificate allows the health professional to immunise independent of a medical order, and the health professional must insure they meet all the requirements for that State or Territory in which they are going to practice. Understanding Vaccines and the National Immunisation Program has been accredited against the National Immunisation Education Framework for Health Professionals by Health Education Services Australia (HESA) a subsidiary of the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council (ANMAC) and is an approved immunisation education program in all states and territories.

Record of Study

On completion of the Program, 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 at completion of the Program.


This immunisation education program has been accredited against the National Immunisation Education Framework for Health Professionals by Health Education Services Australia (HESA) a subsidiary of the ANMAC.

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


Immunisation contributes to significant reductions in morbidity and mortality, reduces the spread of infectious diseases, and increases community protection through herd immunity. A skilled and educated health workforce is vital to maintain and improve immunisation coverage rates through the implantation of the National Immunisation Strategy for Australia 2019 to 2024.

Vaccines are administered by health professionals in a variety of settings such as hospitals, general practice, schools, council clinics and workplace settings. 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.

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 Program development has been based on the requirements to meet the standardised curriculum of the National Immunisation Education Framework for Health Professionals for registered nurses and midwives.

The first version of the Program was developed by immunisation and education experts from the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB), Department for Health and Wellbeing, South Australia, WA Health and the Education and Training Department of the Women and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia and was launched in 2013.

This Program will provide registered nurses and midwives delivering immunisation services independent of medical orders with the required knowledge for them to be sufficiently competent to manage all aspects of service delivery safely and effectively.


Support is available to students by phone and email:

  • Phone support is available Monday to Friday 08:30 – 17:00 (ACST)
    • Phone: 1300 232 272
  • Emails can be sent anytime and a response will be provided on the same or next business day

Immunisation Teachers are available to assist learners with any enquiries, including information about the Program, access details, academic support or emotional support.

Technical support is available through an online help-desk. A request can be submitted 24/7, however the technical experts at Digital Media are only able to respond Monday to Friday 08:30 – 17:00 (ACST). A help link is available by clicking on the students name at the top right hand side of each screen throughout the Program.

Program requirements

The Program must be completed within a period of 20 weeks from the date of registration. Student initiated requests for a program extension or refund must be due to extenuating circumstances and will be granted to students that can provide the relevant evidence.

The Program requires access to the internet and a current browser. It is recommended to use the most recent version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge of Internet Explorer 10 and above. The Program can be accessed via desktop, laptop or mobile devices.


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

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

This Program 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.

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

An interactive Schedule is used throughout the Program.

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 Program

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


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 as required.

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

Links to websites are used throughout the Program. 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 Program may contain sensitive material including images of deceased persons.