A free vaccine to protect against pneumococcal infection is now available for all Australians aged 65 years or over. You can receive it from your GP at the same time as you have your annual influenza vaccine.
Free vaccine is also available to indigenous people over 50 and those 15-49 years with medical risk factors.
Pneumococcal bacteria are spread in droplets from the mouth or nose by coughing and sneezing. The infection can cause pneumonia (lung infection), meningitis (inflammation around the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
People aged 65 or over are at higher risk of contracting these life-threatening infections. In fact, 80% of all deaths from pneumococcal infection and influenza occur in this age group. Immunisation is also recommended for people under 65 with chronic diseases e.g. diabetes, lung, heart or kidney conditions, all smokers, those with low immunity or an absent spleen. However, these groups need to buy the vaccine.
Adult pneumococcal vaccine offers protection against the 23 most common strains of pneumococcal bacteria. It is about 75% effective and significantly reduces deaths and hospitalisation.
Vaccination is generally well tolerated. Some people get some pain or swelling at the injection site and occasionally a mild fever. The majority of healthy adults develop immunity within 2-3 weeks. Protection lasts about 5 years.
Don't forget your flu shot
Flu vaccine should be given now, in autumn, to protect against influenza outbreaks in winter.
Free vaccine is available from your doctor for all people 65 years or over, indigenous people 50 years or over and indigenous people aged 15-49 with chronic illness, as these groups are at highest risk of the complications of flu. A single shot is given each year and is about 70% effective on average.
Vaccination (through the PBS) is also advised for people under 65 who are at high risk of complications (such as those with diabetes, heart disease or severe asthma), pregnant women, people with HIV, healthcare workers and those who live with or care for at-risk people.
Many others may also choose to get vaccinated to avoid becoming ill.
Speak to your GP for more information, ring the Immunisation Infoline on 1800 671 811 or visit http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.