A man in his early sixties standing and smiling in front of a clear, blue sky.

Select a category below to browse relevant vaccine information and FAQs

Aged 50 years and over 

As we age our immune system function can start to decline, increasing our risk of infection and some diseases. Learn more about the diseases below.

  • Diseases

    Please select a disease to learn more or speak your to a healthcare professional for more information.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19)

    COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness which can be spread from person to person.

     Learn more

    Diphtheria

    While now extremely rare in Australia, diphtheria continues to cause illness overseas.

     Learn more

    Pneumococcal disease

    A bacterial infection that usually affects the very young and the elderly. Others can be at risk of complications, too.

     Learn more

    Seasonal Influenza (flu)

    This highly contagious viral infection can affect anyone and is more common in winter.

     Learn more

    Shingles (herpes zoster)

    Shingles (herpes zoster) is a disease that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

     Learn more

    Tetanus

    Caused by bacteria commonly found in soil and manure, which enter the body through wounds or breaks in the skin.

     Learn more

    Whooping cough (pertussis)

    This bacterial infection is highly contagious and affects people of all ages. It can cause serious disease in babies and complications in older adults.

     Learn more

The Australian National Immunisation Program (NIP) outlines a series of government funded immunisations given at specific times throughout your life. In addition, vaccines for other diseases that are not funded may be recommended in the Australian Immunisation Handbook (a resource developed by a government body to provide advice to healthcare professionals).1,2

Click on the diseases below and speak to a healthcare professional to learn more.

    All Adults: There may be a number of circumstances throughout adulthood that may put you be at an increased risk of certain diseases (e.g lifestyle/occupational risks, medical conditions) it is important to speak to a healthcare professional regarding your individual circumstances

  •  Immunisation funded via the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for certain individuals
  •  Immunisations may be recommended in the Australian Immunisation Handbook but is not funded

 Download PDF

Diseases Planning for a baby Pregnancy 50 and over 70 to 79 years Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander adults
Chickenpox (varicella)          
 
Diphtheria          
 
Hepatitis B          
 
Measles          
 
Mumps          
 
Pneumococcal disease          
 
Rubella          
 
Shingles (Herpes zoster)          
 
Tetanus          
 
Whooping cough (pertussis)          
 
Seasonal influenza          
 
  • 10
  • 12
  • 4
  • 5

Reference: 

  1. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). Australian Immunisation Handbook, Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra, 2018, immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au. 
  2. Australian Governement Department of Health. National immunisation program schedule. available at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule
  • What is the immune system?

    The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells and processes that defend the body against germs to help keep us healthy. 

    If germs such as viruses or bacteria enter the body, there are specialised cells in our immune system that identify them and produce a response to fight the infection. 

    The immune system can also ‘remember’ the attack from germs so it can fight them more easily the next time they enter the body.

  • How can I keep my immune system healthy?

    A healthy immune system is important to fight off germs, foreign substances and infectious diseases. 

    There are several things you can do that can help to keep you healthy and reduce your risk of infection: 

    •  eat a balanced diet 
    •  stay active 
    •  get adequate sleep 
    •  quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake 
    •  manage stress 
    •  keep up to date with immunisations 

    To learn more about each of these, please refer to the healthy aging section or speak to a healthcare professional.

  • What are infectious diseases?

    Infectious diseases are caused by germs such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. These germs can be harmless or under certain conditions, they may cause disease. The way infectious diseases are transmitted, their signs and symptoms, prevention and treatment options will vary depending on the type of germ. 

    Practicing good hygiene can help to protect against illness and reduce the spread of germs. Good hygiene involves;

    • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow. Throw the tissue in the rubbish after using it. 
    • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds 
    • if no water is available use an alcohol-based hand-rub 
    • avoid close contact with people who are sick 
    • if you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to reduce the risk of infecting them
    • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this is how germs can spread 
    • disinfect and clean objects and surfaces that may be contaminated. 

    The risk of some infectious diseases may also be reduced through immunisation.

    For more information about infectious diseases please speak to a healthcare professional.

  • What happens to the immune system as you age?

    As you age, your immune system function – the body’s natural defence against infectious diseases – starts to decline, particularly after the age of 50 years. The immune system may not work as well as it used to and can make you more susceptible to certain infectious diseases. 

    Some of the following changes in the immune system may occur: 

    • the immune system responds more slowly to germs, increasing the risk to certain infectious diseases 
    • immune cells reduce in numbers, which means your body may take longer to heal 
    • the immune system becomes less effective at detecting and correcting mutations in cells which may increase our risk of cancer 
    • autoimmune disorders may develop as the immune system becomes less able to distinguish self from non-self, increasing risk of damage to healthy cells.
  • What can adults do to help maintain their immune system and help protect themselves from infectious diseases?

    These are some things (not a complete list) you can do to help maintain your immune system function and help promote healthy ageing over the long term:

    • eat a balanced diet 
    • stay active 
    • take steps to prevent infectious diseases 
    • get adequate sleep 
    • quit smoking and reduce alcohol intake 
    • manage stress. 

    Below are some things you can do to help stay healthy:

    • cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow. Throw the tissue in the rubbish after using it. 
    • wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
    • if no water is available use an alcohol-based hand-rub 
    • avoid close contact with people who are sick 
    • If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to reduce the risk of infecting them
    • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as this is how germs can spread 
    • disinfect and clean objects and surfaces that may be contaminated. 

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • How does a healthy diet promote a healthy immune system and health ageing?

    A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for optimal functioning of all cells, including the cells of the immune system. 

    You can incorporate healthy eating into your diet to promote healthy growth and maintenance of immune cells by: 

    • take steps to avoid obesity. Obesity is associated with many health risks, including chronic inflammation, compromised immune function and increased risk of serious infection.
    • ensure you are eating enough food. Under-nutrition also compromises immune function by reducing the body's ability to fight off harmful pathogens. 
    • certain micronutrients, vitamins and antioxidants, are important to support a healthy immune system. Some foods that are rich in micronutrients include leafy greens, brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, and nuts and seeds.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • How much do adults need to exercise to maintain healthy immunity?

    Regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise can enhance immune defence activity, reduce chronic inflammation and help slow age-related decline in immune system function. 

    Daily exercise recommendations 1:

    • Adults aged 18–64: aim for 2.5–5 hours of moderate intensity exercise, or 1.25–2.5 hours of intense exercise per week.
    • Adults aged 65+: try to get in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

    Reference: 1. Department of Health. Australia’s physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines and the Australian 24-hour movement guidelines. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians (accessed June 2021)

  • How does smoking and alcohol consumption affect the immune system?

    Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can trigger long-lasting inflammation, suppress immune function and increase risk of infection.

    • within 3 months of quitting smoking the immune system starts to recover 
    • in healthy adults, it is recommended to limit alcohol consumption to fewer than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than 4 on any one day. Older adults with existing health issues should follow advise from their healthcare professional. In general, the less you drink, the lower the risk of alcohol-induced harm to the body.

    Please discuss your individual situation and any specific concerns with a healthcare professional.

  • What are the common side effects of immunisations?

    You may experience some side effects after immunisation. Most are mild, short-lived and clear within a few days.

    Common side effects can include:

    • a sore arm
    • fever
    • pain and redness at the injection site
    • babies may be unsettled or sleepy

    Severe side effects like an allergic reaction are rare. If you think you or your child are experiencing a severe reaction, you should seek medical attention immediately.

    If you have any concerns about the side effects of immunisations, please speak to a healthcare professional.

  • How do vaccines work?

    Vaccines work by teaching your immune system to fight future infections. Vaccines generally contain forms or specific parts of the germ that causes the disease, but because these elements of the germ are dead, inactivated or severely weakened, a vaccine cannot give you the disease. 

    When the vaccine enters your body – either via a needle or oral dose – your immune system gets to work and produces specialised cells called ‘antibodies’ that are able lock onto and destroy the germ. Your immune system is then able to remember the germ and produce those antibodies to help destroy it if you are exposed to the disease again.

  • Can you still get a disease despite being immunised for it?

    Like all medicines, vaccines are not 100% effective. Therefore, there may still be a chance that an immunised person can get the disease – although usually with less severe symptoms than if they’d had no immunisation.

  • Why immunise for less common or old diseases?

    Vaccines are given for potentially serious and fatal diseases, some that were common in Australia before immunisation was available. The germs that cause these diseases are still around however due to high rates of immunisation in Australia, most of these diseases are now fortunately very rare. In some countries however, there may be diseases that are more common and these could be brought back into Australia by travellers.

  • What is the National Immunisation Program (NIP)?

    The NIP is a schedule of vaccines, from infancy through to adulthood, that are provided free of charge by the Australian Government.

    For more information please speak to a healthcare professional

  • I’m going overseas soon. Do I need to see my doctor?

    The risk of certain infectious diseases may vary from country to country and within different parts of the same country, even in Australia. The more prepared you are, the safer and more enjoyable your overseas trip will be.

    It is important to plan ahead and see a healthcare professional at least 6 to 8 weeks before you travel to discuss prevention options and travel health. Take along your full itinerary so a healthcare professional can best assess your needs.

PM-AU-AVX-WCNT-190012 Date of GSK Approval: July 2021