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Are your vaccinations up to date?

Vaccinations for children usually take the headlines however a lot of people don't know that as we get older our immune system weakens and we can be more susceptible to get an infection.

It may be time to check with you GP if you should have an immunisation booster (Source: Shutterstock)
It may be time to check with you GP if you should have an immunisation booster (Source: Shutterstock)

Vaccinations we received in childhood may become less effective and some infectious diseases like flu can make us sicker then they used to when we were younger and can even be life-threatening.

With vaccination rates among older Australians as low as 50 to 60 percent it might be time to head to your GP to see if you’re in need of a boost.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW highlights there were more than 700 deaths in older Australians due to vaccine-preventable diseases between 2008 and 2011.

“A disease such as shingles, flu or pneumonia can be the trigger that pushes someone who lives independently into permanent disability,” she writes. “Yet we don't often hear about the hospitalisations and deaths of older Australians from vaccine preventable diseases such as herpes, influenza, shingles and even whooping cough.”

And it’s not just vaccinating to keep yourself healthy - you may want to consider a booster to keep your grandchild safe too. As immunity from the whooping cough vaccine and disease reduces over time, current guidelines state boosters are required to protect against the disease in adulthood, especially for those who have close contact with children less than 6 months of age.

Unfortunately as we age, our immune system does progressively weaken, however Prof MacIntyre points out new vaccines and combinations show promise in overcoming this problem, with a new shingles vaccine showing better effectiveness than many infant vaccines.

Here is the vaccination list currently funded under the National Immunisation Program for older people, however you should visit your GP or health specialist for more advice.

  • Shingles
    The Government recently announced Australians aged over 70 are able to get the shingles vaccine for free, with a five year catch-up program for people aged 71 – 79 years until 2021. One in three adults are at risk from catching shingles – caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Symptoms include a very painful rash which can affect any part of the body but is most common on the abdomen, sides and back. and it can have a debilitating effect on older people.

  • Flu
    Each year just before the flu season, there is usually a government funded national flu vaccination advertising campaign. The vaccine is free for those over 65 years and over.
  • Pneumococcal
    Diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis and infections of the bloodstream are caused by pneumococcal infections. For older people, these diseases can be life threatening particularly if they already have a chronic medical condition such as lung disease and diabetes. The Pneumococcal polysaccharide (23vPPV) vaccine is free if you are over 65 years old, or over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


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