Adults also need immunisation and some vaccines are free. Find out what immunisations you need to protect yourself and your whānau.
As you get older, the protection you received from some of your earlier immunisations begins to wear off meaning you are at increased risk from some infectious diseases.
Some vaccines are available for free. Have a chat with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist for information on how to get vaccinated.
Influenza (or the flu) is a serious illness that can be fatal. Influenza may lead to a stay in hospital at any age but particularly if you are older or have an underlying medical condition. Influenza kills around 500 New Zealanders every year.
The flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 and over, as well as people of all ages with certain medical conditions. It’s usually available from early April each year from many places, including your local health provider, community vaccination site, and many pharmacies.
Shingles is a painful rash affecting your nervous system. Anyone who has previously had chickenpox can develop shingles, many years after recovering from the disease. Shingles usually occurs in older people and lasts from 10 to 15 days. The nerve pain can last long after the rash disappears and, in some cases, can cause permanent damage.
The current funded shingles vaccine (Shingrix) is only free for people aged 65. To receive both doses for free, you must receive your first Shingrix dose after you turn 65 and before you turn 66. You can get your second dose funded at any time if your first dose was given before your 66th birthday. If you do not receive the first dose before turning 66, you will have to pay for both doses yourself.
Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough
The vaccine used as a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough is called BOOSTRIX. A single dose is available for free for people aged 45 and over who have not had 4 previous doses of tetanus vaccine. A single dose is also available for all people aged from 65 years.
Please note that the ADT (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccine was used in New Zealand for people aged 45 and 65 years until 2020 when it was replaced with the BOOSTRIX (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough) vaccine. If you have already received a tetanus and diphtheria booster from age 65 years, you are not eligible for a free BOOSTRIX vaccination. BOOSTRIX can be purchased by those who are not eligible for a free vaccine.
Tetanus (or lockjaw) is a serious infection caused by bacteria that lives in dirt and dust. It enters the body through a cut or wound. Tetanus causes muscle stiffness, painful spasms, and sometimes death.
Diphtheria is a serious bacterial throat infection which can make it hard to breathe. It can also affect the heart and nervous system and cause death. Because of an effective vaccine, diphtheria is now extremely rare in New Zealand, however it can still be brought back into the country through travel.
Most cases of whooping cough (pertussis) are in adults whose immunity has faded since being immunised as children. In these cases, symptoms tend to be less serious, although the persistent cough can be unpleasant and frustrating. Whooping cough can be very serious if it's passed on to babies and children – especially those under 1 year old. It is recommended that close family contacts of young infants, such as grandparents, have a booster dose to reduce spread of the disease.