There are a variety of reasons why vaccines are recommended in adulthood. Staying up to date with vaccines protects adults against vaccine preventable diseases, and also helps provide protection for more vulnerable members of the community.
HALO stands for Health, Age, Lifestyle and Occupation. Considering all of these factors can help decide what vaccines might be recommended for an adult. Vaccines can be provided by your GP, local council or selected pharmacies.
Understanding a person’s health history is important when considering if immunisations are needed.
For example, people with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, absent or non-functioning spleens are eligible and recommended to have extra funded vaccines under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) such as pneumococcal or flu vaccines. Likewise, adults with less effective immune systems due to having a medical condition or taking specific medications (eg. cancer therapies) are also recommended to receive additional vaccines for extra protection as they are more vulnerable to severe illness.
Women who are planning pregnancy should have their immunisation history reviewed and receive any outstanding vaccines as part of pre-conception care. Pregnant women are recommended to receive flu and whooping cough vaccines during pregnancy to protect both the woman and her unborn baby. Pregnant women are also strongly recommended to be up to date with COVID vaccines to make sure they are protected against severe disease and hospitalisation.
Different vaccines are recommended at different ages because certain diseases may be more prevalent at that age, or symptoms may be more severe if a person is infected at that age.
Adults who have missed out on any childhood vaccines for any reason, adults who were born overseas and were immunised according to that country’s vaccine schedule, or anyone with incomplete vaccine records, should complete a catch-up schedule. This can be arranged with your GP or immunisation provider.
Pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 50 years of age and non-indigenous people from 70 years.
All adults born after 1966 should ensure they have had 2 doses of measles vaccines (adults born before 1966 are assumed to have been exposed and have immunity due to high levels of circulating measles disease).
Adults of all ages are recommended to receive a flu vaccine every year, however from the age of 65, they should receive flu vaccines that contain a special ingredient, called an adjuvant. These flu vaccines are designed to be more effective in this age group.
From 70 years of age, shingles vaccines are recommended for all adults.
Individual lifestyle factors can impact how likely it is that a person may be exposed to diseases and experience serious infections. These factors can influence what vaccines may be recommended. Some factors to consider include:
- Travel plans – travelling to certain areas where specific diseases are commonly found (known as endemic) may mean that certain vaccines are recommended. Specific vaccines may also be recommended based on the time of year the and duration of travel.
- Parents or carers of newborn babies –all parents and carers of newborn babies are encouraged to receive a booster dose of whooping cough vaccine to protect the babies they are caring for.
- Sexual activity – there are some vaccines that can protect against sexually transmitted diseases and therefore may be recommended for certain individuals.
- Smokers – people who smoke are at greater risk of severe complications of certain diseases and may require additional vaccines.
- People who are planning tattoos or body piercings, or those who are injectable drug users – these activities can increase the likelihood that a person will come into contact with blood-borne diseases and therefore are recommended to receive certain vaccines.
A person’s occupation can sometimes mean there is a greater risk of exposure to vaccine preventable diseases. If you work in the following industries, you may require additional vaccines to be as protected as possible in your workplace:
- Healthcare workers
- People who work with children
- Emergency service workers
- Residential aged care workers
- Someone who lives with an immunocompromised person
- Abattoir workers
- Plumbers or sewerage workers
- People who handle bats
- People exposed to blood, bodily fluids or human tissue in their workplace.
Everything you need to know
Men who have sex with men can have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and other infections that are vaccine preventable. Vaccines that protect against hepatitis B, human papillomavirus and hepatitis A may be recommended. It is important to speak to your GP or health care provider to see if these vaccines are recommended for you.
Your GP is a good place to start for travel vaccine advice. There are also dedicated travel medicine clinics who can provide specialised information on preventative care and offer immunisation. It is important to allow at least 4-6 weeks before your trip when seeking advice as there may be a long wait time for an appointment and some vaccines require multiple doses over time before you are fully protected.
There are lots of strategies and supports available to help people with a fear of needles. It is recommended that people with needle phobia avoid going to large scale vaccination sessions for immunisations as they can be loud, crowded and can increase distress. A smaller setting, like your GP, may be more helpful. Other techniques such as distraction or anaesthetic creams can also help. Check out our Needle phobia page for more information.
There are lots of different types (strains) of flu. The flu vaccine is updated every year to provide protection against the most common types circulating at that time. The best protection occurs in the 3-4 months following immunisation before beginning to decline. Being immunised every year is important to make sure that you are protected against flu disease and its complications every year, and also provides protection for the people around you.
Records of any immunisation given to an adult from 2016 should be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). You can access these records through your Medicare online account through the myGov website or Express Plus Medicare mobile app.
Immunisation records of vaccines administered prior to 2016 can be accessed by contacting the individual immunisation provider who administered the vaccine/s.
Vaccines for Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) have more commonly been regarded as travel vaccine for those visiting countries in Asia and the Western Pacific. More recently however, cases of JEV have been found in Australia. JEV is a viral infection that is spread by mosquitos and people who work outdoors or with pigs have a greater risk of exposure to the disease.
There are two JEV vaccines available and these can be provided by selected GP clinics. For more information please follow the link to our Japanese Encephalitis resource.
For the most part, any side effects experienced after immunisation are usually mild and short lived. They can include a sore arm at the injection site, muscle aches, tiredness and fever. These symptoms can be managed at home with over-the-counter pain relief, fluids and rest. It is safe for people who have experienced these types of side effects can go on and have future vaccines without the need for extra medical support.
Serious side effects such as allergic reactions are very rare. If you think that you have experienced a serious side effect it is important that it is reported to SAEFVIC (the vaccine safety service in Victoria) so that your reaction can be followed up, investigated and the appropriate specialist support provided to you if required.