Vaccinations you need as an adult
Vaccinations are a big part of an infant's early years but it's important not to forget about them in later life. The vaccinations you need as an adult depend on your age, whether you fall into certain risk groups and which parts of the world you intend to visit.
First-time students between the ages of 19 and 25 should get the Men ACWY vaccine, given by a single injection into the upper arm, to protect against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia: meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y.
Those aged 65 and over are advised to get the pneumococcal (PPV) vaccine as well as the flu vaccine every year. The shingles vaccine is available to 70-year-olds and to 78- and 79-year-olds as a catch-up.
People who fall into certain risk groups, such as pregnant women, adults with long-term health issues and healthcare workers, are advised to have certain vaccines that are not routinely available to everyone on the NHS. These include the hepatitis B vaccine, TB vaccine and chickenpox vaccine.
Vaccinations for travelling abroad
Most healthy adults who don't fall into any special risk groups will only require vaccinations when they are travelling abroad, to protect against serious infections found in other countries.
According to the NHS, you're unlikely to need any vaccinations if you're only travelling to countries in northern and central Europe, North America or Australia. However if you're travelling to countries in other parts of the world you may need protection against disease.
Some vaccinations are available free on the NHS because they protect against diseases thought to represent the greatest risk to public health if they were brought into the country. Vaccinations that fall into this category are diphtheria, polio and tetanus (combined booster); typhoid; hepatitis A — including when combined with typhoid or hepatitis B — and cholera.
Other vaccines have to be paid for even if they're recommended for travel to a certain area. These include hepatitis B when not combined with hepatitis A; Japanese encephalitis and tick-borne encephalitis; meningitis C and other meningitis vaccines; rabies; tuberculosis (TB) and yellow fever.
The easiest way to find out exactly what vaccinations you should have before travelling to a particular country is to visit the NHS website fitfortravel. Countries are listed alphabetically and clicking on your chosen destination will reveal detailed information about what vaccinations are advised, what vaccinations may also be considered and whether a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for that particular country.
As well as the advised vaccinations you may consider additional ones if you are travelling at certain times of the year (for example, some diseases are more common during the rainy season); if you are staying in a rural area, which puts you more at risk of disease than an urban area; or if you're working in a location that may bring you into closer contact with more diseases, such as in a refugee camp, in a medical setting or with animals.
Points to consider before getting vaccinations for travel:
- Visit your GP at least eight weeks before your travel date. Some vaccinations need to be given several weeks in advance to let your body develop immunity. Some also involve more than one dose, spread over several weeks.
- Some countries require you to have an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) before you enter. For example, Saudi Arabia requires proof of vaccination against certain types of meningitis for visitors arriving for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. If you're travelling to a tropical country in Africa or South America, you may not be granted entry from an area where there is yellow fever unless you have proof you've been vaccinated against it.
- The cost of vaccinations at private clinics will vary but tends to be around £50 for each dose of a vaccine.
- Speak to your GP before having any vaccinations if you're pregnant, you think you might be pregnant or you're breastfeeding.