Adequate vaccination is just as important for adults as it is for children. It's not just travel vaccines that are relevant for adults. Some vaccines given in childhood need boosters to ensure they still offer protection. Sometimes people miss having essential vaccines in childhood and so are not protected against specific diseases.
Fortunately, boosters and catch-up vaccines are available for many vaccines normally given in childhood. Your doctor is best placed to advise you on whether you need any vaccines. The National Health and Medical Research Council makes recommendations for both child and adult immunisations, which are detailed in the National Immunisation Program Schedule.
Some of the diseases Australian adults should consider being vaccinated against are listed here.
Tetanus vaccination is included in the National Immunisation Program Schedule. The primary course for children is followed with a booster at 4 years of age. A second booster at 10 to 15 years is intended to help maintain immunity into adulthood.
Adults aged 50 years should have a booster unless they have had one in the previous 10 years. Travellers to developing countries should have a booster if it is more than 10 years since their last tetanus vaccination.
Adults receiving a wound that may become infected with tetanus, such as a gardening wound or nail puncture, should have a tetanus booster if they haven't had one within 5 years.
Although diphtheria has been almost eradicated in Australia, there are still isolated cases in people who haven't been immunised, almost entirely due to imported infections, particularly from developing countries. If people don't keep up their immunity through vaccination, then we are at risk of more infections.
In Australia, diphtheria vaccination is part of the standard schedule of vaccinations given in childhood, in conjunction with tetanus and whooping cough vaccines. Booster doses are also recommended at 4 years and 10 to 15 years.
Adults aged 50 years should have a booster unless they have had one in the previous 10 years. Diphtheria vaccination is generally combined with tetanus, or tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).
2. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition 2013. http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home (accessed Jul 2013).