Seventy-year-old Australians can now get the shingles vaccine for free.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley today announced the shingles vaccine will be free to eligible people, with a catch-up program available for adults aged 71 to 79 years.

“This new program is an important reminder that vaccinations don’t stop at childhood,” Minister Ley said. 

“Regardless of how healthy and fit you feel, as you age you are at increased risk of contracting serious illnesses.”

Shingles is a painful rash, which can blister and is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is a serious infection that has a particularly debilitating effect on older people. One in three adults are at risk of developing the virus in their lifetime.

“We also know that as you get older you are at greater risk of experiencing more severe and long-lasting pain associated with the shingles infection, so prevention with vaccination is always a better option than treatment once you’ve contracted the virus,” Minister Ley said.

“Due to the debilitating nature of the shingles infection, it could stop people from spending time with their family and grandchildren, or participating in regular community outings; activities which we know are vitally important in keeping older Australians happier and healthier.

“The National Shingles Vaccination Program is a major investment by the Turnbull Government in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) to improve the health of older Australians.”

The shingles vaccine is the first adult vaccine for a new disease added to the National Immunisation Program since 2005.

With the introduction of the shingles vaccine, the National Immunisation Program now provides free vaccines for eligible people against 17 infectious diseases.

Minister Ley said in addition to the shingles vaccine, older Australians are also able to receive free pneumonia and influenza vaccines through the National Immunisation Program

“The Government recognises that people want assurances that the vaccines they are receiving today are safe. This is why the Government is investing $6.2 million over four years in the AusVaxSafety National Surveillance System.

“This will be a world-leading surveillance system providing real-time feedback on NIP vaccines, enhancing the overall quality of vaccine safety in Australia.”

For more information about the NIP and the NIP schedule, visit the Immunise Australia website.