Influenza and older people

Annual influenza immunisation is free for all eligible adults aged 65 years or older

The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health recommend annual influenza immunisation for all adults aged 65 years or older. 

Places to get immunised in 2020:

  • To find a doctor in your area click here.
  • Click on this link (list of vaccinating pharmacies is currently being updated) for a list of pharmacies offering flu vaccinations this year

Click on a link below to open the  Immunisation for older people brochure in your preferred language:

Risk from influenza for older people

As you get older you are more vulnerable to getting infectious diseases like influenza (flu), and you have a higher risk of developing serious complications. Your immune system is not as good at protecting you as it gets older, even if you feel fit and healthy.

Influenza can be a serious illness. People of any age who contract influenza can end up in hospital, but it’s more likely if you’re older or have an underlying medical condition. Influenza can make an existing medical condition, such as asthma, emphysema or diabetes, a lot worse.

After having influenza, older people may not be able to do the ordinary things as easily or as well as they did before they got ill, like bathing and dressing, shopping and cooking, doing hobbies or attending social activities. Some older people with influenza will die.

Influenza immunisation protects against more than just getting influenza

Influenza immunisation supports healthy aging, maintenance of independence and quality of life for older people.



Active healthy older people living in the community, frail older people living in care, and everyone in between can benefit from being immunised against influenza every year.

Immunisation against influenza provides older people with some protection against getting the disease, and if you do get influenza having had an immunisation can make the symptoms less severe. Yearly influenza immunisation can also reduce the risk you will have serious complications and need to be admitted to hospital or die compared to older people who didn't have their immunisation.

Having an immunisation against influenza has been shown to help prevent a heart attack as much as taking medicines to lower cholesterol (blood fats) or high blood pressure, or stopping smoking. Older people who have an influenza immunisation every year can get more benefit from their immunisation than adults who have had one immunisation this year but only had them occasionally in the last few years.

Around four out of five people with influenza don't have any symptoms and don't know they have the disease but they still spread the virus among their family and friends. Being immunised can stop you giving influenza to your family and friends. If your family and friends get immunised, they are less likely to give you influenza.

Influenza immunisation cannot give you influenza

Common influenza immunisation responses include headache, muscle aches and feeling tired. You may feel like you have influenza. However, the influenza immunisation cannot cause the flu because the influenza viruses are completely inactivated.

Immunisation against influenza and shingles

You can have your influenza immunisation at the same time as your have immunisation against shingles. Even though influenza immunisation is recommended every year you only need an immunisation against shingles once.