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Vaccinations for travelling

The objective of vaccination is to achieve immunisation against specific diseases. Vaccines may be administered orally or by injection.

Vaccines contain a very small dose of live or inactive bacteria or a small dose of a modified toxin produced by the bacteria. Vaccines are designed to stimulate an immune reaction in the body similar to that produced by the disease itself, but with few—if any—symptoms. If the vaccinated person is exposed to the disease in the future, the body should be able to develop an immune response fast enough to prevent illness. Vaccinations may not take effect immediately and their protective effects are not always life long.

Employer's responsibilities when requiring workers to travel

Section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) requires a federal employer to take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of their workers at work.

Australian Government employers requiring staff to work in areas where they may be at risk of injuries or disease should develop
appropriate policies and procedures that risk manage the particular requirements for such travel. It is important to ensure that all workers are aware of and understand their responsibility to follow organisational policies and procedures and assist the employer in meeting their duty.

Employers’ policies and procedures on vaccinations for travel should be based on a risk management approach. Before allowing or
requiring travel, vaccination against specific diseases may be required. Alternatively, employers might seek to eliminate the risk by not permitting travel to areas where they cannot mitigate the risks. An employer’s organisational policy should indicate that vaccinations are voluntary and that a worker must not be coerced into receiving a vaccination or be vaccinated against their will. The policy should also contain practical guidance on how the employer can control the risks in the situation where a worker refuses the recommended vaccination for travel to a particular destination.

Requirement that employees be vaccinated before travelling

Where travel to a particular destination may require vaccinations, employers should rely on the advice and services of suitable health service providers, including the worker’s own medical provider. They can determine the appropriate vaccinations and their dosage for each destination and provide workers with information regarding administration, side effects and follow-up vaccinations. Employers should provide workers with the contact details for the chosen health service provider (where relevant) and/or a traveller’s medical and vaccination clinic prior to travel for additional information, if requested.

Possible side effects of vaccinations

While vaccines are generally both effective and safe, no vaccine is totally safe for all recipients. Vaccination may sometimes cause certain side effects such as local reaction, slight fever or other symptoms may develop as part of the normal immune response. In addition, certain components of the vaccine occasionally cause reactions. A successful vaccine reduces these reactions to a minimum while inducing maximum immunity. Serious reactions are rare but possible.

Information on the possible side effects of vaccinations can be obtained from the Department of Health and Ageing, the engaged Health Service Provider or Travellers Medical and Vaccination Clinics (for contact details, see below).

Further information

Other WHS information about travel vaccinations

For answers to commonly asked questions about immunisation, refer to:

For further information about this fact sheet, or others in the travel series, please contact Comcare on the general enquiry line1300 366 979 or by email: whs.help@comcare.gov.au.

This fact sheet is also available in PDF format: Vaccinations for travelling [PDF,75KB]

Page last updated: 20 Mar 2014