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Immunisation for seniors

Vaccination for adults is just as important as it is for children. The information on this page is a general guide to immunisations for adults aged 65 years or over.

Health professionals

Find information that will help you deliver your service to your patients

About vaccines for seniors

Vaccination for seniors aged 65 years or over is just as important as it is for children. The vaccines you need will depend on several things, including:

  • whether you missed out on childhood vaccines
  • if you are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • your job
  • how old you are
  • whether you plan on travelling

Speak to your doctor or vaccination provider about your or your family’s specific needs.

The National Immunisation Program (NIP) or state and territory programs fund some vaccines. You can buy others privately with a prescription.

Catch-up vaccines

The vaccines listed below are part of the routine childhood schedule and generally adults won’t need boosters.  If you are not sure if you've had them, speak to your doctor.

Additional vaccines

We recommend the following vaccines for adults aged over 65 years old.

Influenza

Influenza is a very contagious infection of the airways. It is especially serious for people more than 65 years old.

The influenza vaccine is free through the NIP for seniors aged 65 years and over. The influenza virus strains change every year and the vaccine changes every year to match these strains. That’s why it’s important for people to get the vaccine every year.

Visit the influenza immunisation service page for information on receiving the influenza vaccine.

Shingles (herpes zoster)

Shingles (also called herpes zoster) is a disease caused when the chickenpox virus reactivates. Shingles can cause severe pain that can last for months.

The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults aged 60 years or more who have not previously been vaccinated. The vaccine is free through the NIP for people aged 70 years. People aged 71 to 79 years can get a free catch-up vaccination until October 2021. 

Find out more in the Protect yourself against shingles brochure.

Visit the Shingles immunisation service page for information on receiving the shingles vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease is a bacterial infection. It is especially serious for older people. It can cause:

  • pneumonia
  • infection of the blood (sepsis)
  • inflammation of the membranes around the brain (meningitis)

The pneumococcal vaccine is free through the NIP for adults aged 65 years old or more.  

Visit the Pneumococcal immunisation service page for information on receiving the pneumococcal vaccine.

Booster vaccines

A booster is an extra dose of a vaccine that you have had before that 'boosts' the immune system. 

The following vaccinations need booster doses.

Diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis)

Diphtheria and tetanus vaccinations are given as diphtheria-tetanus (dT) or diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis) vaccinations.

Tetanus

Tetanus is a serious disease that causes severe muscle spasms, especially in the neck and jaw (called lockjaw). It can sometimes cause death.

We recommend a booster dose of a tetanus-containing vaccine for adults who:

  • are 50 years old or over, who have not had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years. You must have previously had a primary course of 3 doses
  • have a wound that is not a minor cut, and your previous dose was more than 5 years ago

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Whooping cough (pertussis) is serious disease that can lead to pneumonia, brain injury and sometimes death. It can affect people at any age, but is especially serious for babies.

We recommend a single booster dose for adults who have not been vaccinated for the past 10 years if:

  • you are 65 years old or more
  • you are in close contact with infants

Find out more

For more information about receiving these vaccines, visit the below pages:

Medically at-risk

People with specific medical conditions may require additional vaccines. Your doctor will advise if you need any additional vaccines.

Last updated: 
15 May 2019
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