Older people are more vulnerable to a number of diseases that can be prevented through immunisation, particularly influenza, shingles and tetanus.
As you get older, your immune system may no longer work as well so you may be at increased risk of catching an infectious disease.
Free immunisation is offered at age 65 onwards to protect against these serious diseases.
Recommended immunisations to protect against serious diseases:
Influenza ‘flu’ immunisation is free and recommended every year for those aged 65 and older. For your best protection, it's best to get immunised in autumn, before the winter peak arrives.
Every year, the influenza vaccine is adjusted to protect against strains of the virus that are likely to be circulating the following winter, as these change from year to year. This year, the influenza vaccine protects against four strains of the virus including the ‘Australian flu’ which caused many deaths in Australia and across the northern hemisphere.
Influenza is different to the common cold. Complications from influenza can be more likely when you are older and it can make an existing medical condition, such as asthma, emphysema or diabetes, a lot worse. Each year in New Zealand, around 400 people die of influenza and its complications from influenza, mostly older people. Immunisation is the most effective way to help protect against these diseases.
Shingles immunisation is now free at age 65, and until 31 March 2020, anyone aged 66 to 80 is also eligible for a free dose of the vaccine. Shingles is a painful rash that can affect 1 in every 3 people and is more common in older people. If you have had chickenpox in the past, you are at risk of getting shingles.
Immunisation against shingles is recommended at any time of the year. The next time you visit your doctor, ask about getting immunised against shingles.
Combined tetanus and diphtheria immunisation is also recommended at age 65 to help boost your immunity against tetanus and diphtheria. Most people were immunised against these diseases as children, but the vaccine’s protection can wear off over time.
Ask your doctor whether a combined tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough vaccine is recommended for you. Your general practice may charge a small fee to administer this vaccine.
Whooping cough immunisation is recommended if you spend time with babies or young grandchildren, you can talk to your doctor or nurse about getting immunised to protect against whooping cough. It’s not free, but most adults aren’t immune. If you become infected, you could pass the disease on to babies or young children, for whom it can be very serious.
Make sure you’re up-to-date with your immunisations. Call your general practice to book your free immunisations today.
For more information:
- Talk to your doctor, practice nurse or vaccinating pharmacist.
- Visit: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/immunisation/immunisation-older-adults
- Read: https://www.healthed.govt.nz/system/files/resource-files/HE2540_Immunisation%20for%20older%20people.pdf