What vaccinations do I need as an adult?

Key points about immunisation for adults

  • Vaccinations are not just for children. Adults also need vaccinations.
  • Protection provided by some childhood vaccines can also wear off over time, and as you get older your immune system tends to weaken, putting you at higher risk of certain diseases.
  • Find out about the vaccines available free for adults in Aotearoa and when you are eligible for them.
Older woman with bandaid on left upper arm

The following vaccines are free for adults in New Zealand

  • Flu vaccine: Every winter from age 55 years for Māori and Pasifika and 65 years for anyone else. The flu vaccine is also free for some people with certain medical conditions.
  • Shingles vaccine: One dose at age 65 years. 
  • Tetanus vaccine: From 45 years (if you have not already received 4 doses of tetanus-containing vaccine) and 65 years for anyone else.
  • Measles vaccine (MMR): Anyone born on/after 1 January 1969 who has not had two doses of the MMR vaccine should have the MMR vaccine.
  • COVID vaccines: Adults over 16 years are eligible for 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and a booster. If you are over 50 years you are eligible for 2 boosters. 

Note: Other vaccines are funded for adults at high risk of some diseases due to other medical conditions. For more details see funded vaccines for special groups (external link)and (external link)vaccinations in pregnancy.


Yearly vaccination against the flu is the best way to protect our communities from infection and serious illness. It is advisable for anyone over the age of 6 months to have the flu vaccine. In New Zealand the flu vaccine is free for Māori and Pasifika every year from the age of 55 years and from 65 years for anyone else. These groups are at higher risk of getting the flu and complications, which may involve being admitted to hospital. Read more about the flu vaccine. 

Shingles is a painful, itchy skin rash. It usually appears as blisters around one side of your chest, but it can also be on your trunk, back, legs or face. It is most common in people over 70 years of age, but can happen in younger people. It is caused by the same virus (varicella zoster) that causes chickenpox. 

In New Zealand, there are two brands of shingles vaccines – Zostavax (1 dose) and Shingrix (2 doses). Both vaccines are available to anyone 50 years and older but only free (funded) for people aged 65 years. Read more about shingles and the shingles vaccine. 

Tetanus is a serious disease caused by bacteria usually found in soil and manure. It affects your nervous system and causes severe muscle spasms, mainly in your jaw and neck. Tetanus can affect your breathing and can be life threatening.

Anyone who hasn't had 3 tetanus-containing vaccines is at risk of getting tetanus. People over 50 years of age (particularly women) are most likely to suffer from tetanus. This is because the National Childhood Immunisation Programme with tetanus vaccine only started in 1960. Before 1960, tetanus vaccination was only routinely given to armed forces personnel.

The effect of the vaccine wears off over time so having tetanus vaccines as a child will not provide life-long cover. You need booster doses as an adult. Booster doses may also be needed after dirty cuts, grazes and wounds if it has been more than 5 years since the last booster. 

Booster doses are free for adults from 65 years of age (Boostrix®). Adults who haven't previously received 4 doses of tetanus-containing vaccine can also get a dose of Boostrix at 45 years of age. The vaccine itself is free but you may need to pay for it to be given. Ask your healthcare provider  for more information. Read more about tetanus and the tetanus vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bug (bacteria) called S. pneumoniae. This causes serious illnesses such as pneumonia (lung infection), meningitis and septicaemia (infection of the blood). Pneumonia can cause hospitalisation and even death, especially in people aged 65 years or older.

Getting the pneumococcal vaccine is one of the ways to protect against pneumococcal disease. The vaccine may not always prevent pneumonia but it can lessen the severity of the illness and the need to go to hospital. Pneumococcal vaccine is not free for all older adults in New Zealand – you may need to pay for it. People aged over 65 years only need one dose. Read more about pneumococcal disease and the pneumococcal vaccine.

Older people(external link) Fight Flu, NZ
Influenza vaccine(external link)
Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Pneumococcal disease(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Zostavax vaccine(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ

2022 immunisation schedule for health professionals(external link) Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ, 2020
Immunisation handbook 2020(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, pharmacist

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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