Which vaccines should you have?

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As we age, our immune system weakens and our body becomes less able to protect us against illnesses. This means we are more likely to catch certain diseases and recovering from illness can be a longer process. Additionally, as we grow older, we lose our immunity against illnesses that we have been vaccinated for as a child, such as the flu.

Vaccinations are considered by many as the best way of guarding yourself against serious infections. They are usually simple and safe, and it is estimated that, around the world, immunisation programmes prevent approximately 3 million deaths each year.

There are three common but potentially hazardous diseases of older people are at risk and should consider being vaccinated against:

  • influenza (65 years and over)
  • pneumococcal disease (65 years and over)
  • shingles, also known as herpes zoster (70 – 79 years)


The flu is a viral infection, the symptoms of which commonly include fever, tiredness, muscle aches, headaches, cough and sweats. It can lead to serious health complications, especially in older people, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and even death.

Yearly vaccination against the flu is recommended for all Australians aged 65 and over, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over. Free influenza vaccinations are available for these groups of people.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease or ‘strep’ is an infectious disease that can cause fever, chills and shaking, chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, bloody phlegm and drowsiness. It is a leading cause of death among Australian children under two years of age and people over 85. It can cause a range of different illnesses including sinusitis, otitis media, pneumonia, bacteraemia, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis and meningitis.

A vaccine known as Pneumovax is used in older people, and is effective against the 23 most common strains of the bacteria that cause the disease in adults. Free pneumococcal disease vaccinations are available for all Australians aged 65 and over.

Shingles (herpes zoster)

Shingles is an extremely painful rashcaused by the same virus as the chicken pox. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms (without fever), headaches, sensitivity to light, blisters, itching, tingling and pain. When we have chicken pox as children, the virus stays in the nerve cells and is controlled by the immune system. But as the immune system become less effective as we age, the virus may be reactivated and cause shingles.

The single-dose vaccine against shingles is recommended for all adults aged 60 years and over, unless they are allergic to any of its ingredients or already have a disease that significantly lowers their immunity.

Tetanus and diphtheria

It is recommended that Australians receive booster vaccinations against tetanus and diphtheria at age 50, unless they have already received the vaccine in the previous 10 years.

Read more at mydr.com.au

Read more at immunise.health.gov.au

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Written by ameliath


Total Comments: 12
  1. 0

    Had my annual flu jab but still managed to contract Influenza A on a recent trip to Asia:(

    • 0

      I believe that as my sister had a flu jab and got the flu too. I didn’t have the jab and even though I was regularly in contact with my sister I didn’t get the flu.

      I’ve only had the flu once as a kid after my parents thought it was a good idea to have the flu jab. Never again.

    • 0

      Cannot catch flu from a jab as the virus that is used is dead.

  2. 0

    When my eldest granddaughter was born nearly four years ago a booster whooping cough vaccine was available free of charge for grandparents. I have another grandchild due in March but this time I will have to pay a charge of $40 + according to my GP.

    Another cost cutting exercise by the Government ? !!!

    • 0

      You did well. My wife and I had the whooping cough vaccine in 2010 and it cost us $70 each.

    • 0

      I picked up Whooping Cough recently – didn’t know the previous vacination ‘wore off’. After mine cleared up my wife went and had a booster and it was $140. Given grandparents tend to be around grandchildren, particularly at this time of year, and given the massive increase in cases of Whooping Cough in Victoria, Qld and NSW this year, might be an idea to get a booster. Even if it is $140 – whooping cough is so bad and so, so exhausing. My doctor said he has a booster every 10 years – but then he’s often around it.

  3. 0

    None don’t have any… I had one in n the 1970s and it nearly killed me, I said never again and here we are in 2016 I’ve never had any ever again

  4. 0

    No Gloden Oldie, the Flu jab caused the flu.. That what it does

    • 0

      Mary, this is a gross misconception, the flu vaccine DOES NOT cause the flu. The vaccine has a virus which has been deactivated or does not contain any virus at all.

  5. 0

    I’m against all vaccines it nearly killed me and my children

  6. 0

    Is someone else using my name of “GoldenOldie”, as I did not post the comment at 10.51am today.

    • 0

      As the GoldenOldie (NOT Golden Oldie – note use of space bar) who posted that comment I would like to point out that it is dangerous to jump from the particular case to make a generalised assumption. My illness may have been far worse without that prior (several months prior – which is a long incubation period, Mary Poppins!) vaccination.
      I am pro-vaccination. This is the 21st century after all – why dismiss decades if not centuries of scientific research?!



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