Immunisation for older adults

Older people also need immunisation. This section describes the free immunisations available for people at age 65 and older. These immunisations protect against shingles, influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

Note: From 1 July 2020, the National Immunisation Schedule changed for those aged 45 and 65.  Boostrix vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough replaced ADT vaccine, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria only.

At age 65, immunisation against influenza, shingles, tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough is recommended by the Ministry of Health. These vaccines are free. Talk to your doctor or practice nurse to find out how to protect yourself.

As you get older, the protection you received from some of your earlier immunisations begins to wear off. Your immune system may no longer work as well and you are at increased risk from some infectious diseases. Free immunisation is offered at age 65 onwards to protect you against some serious diseases.


Shingles is a painful rash affecting a particular nerve. It is a long term effect of chickenpox many years after people recover 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.

Shingles vaccine is free at age 65. Until 31 December 2021, anyone aged 66 to 80 inclusive is also eligible for a free shingles vaccine.


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 400 New Zealanders every year.

Influenza vaccine is free and recommended every year from age 65 onwards. The vaccine is changed each year to make sure it protects against the most common strains of the virus. You can get the vaccine free at your doctors and some pharmacies from late autumn each year.


Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection of the throat, which can close off the airway. It can also affect the heart and nervous system and cause death. Because of immunisation, diphtheria is now extremely rare in New Zealand, however it can still be brought back into the country through travel.


Tetanus (or lockjaw) is a serious infection caused by bacteria that live in dirt and dust, and enter the body through a cut or wound. Tetanus causes muscle stiffness, painful spasms and sometimes death.

Whooping cough

Most cases of whooping cough are in adults whose immunity has faded. In these cases, symptoms tend to be less serious, although the persistent cough can be unpleasant and frustrating.  However, whooping cough can be very serious if it's passed on to babies and children – especially those under 1 year old.

Combined tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine is recommended and free at age 65 to boost the immunity you received as a child. 

One dose of Boostrix vaccine is also recommended and free at age 45 if you have not previously received four doses of tetanus vaccine.

For more information about immunisation, talk to your family doctor or practice nurse.

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