School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Reducing the impact of vaccine preventable diseases in older Australians

Vaccine Older Australians

Australia’s population is ageing, and with that comes an increasing burden on Australia’s health system.  Our researchers are working to combat this with strategies to improve health and prevent morbidity in older adults.

Vaccine preventable diseases are responsible for substantial morbidity, mortality and health care costs in Australian adults.  However, adult vaccination is a comparatively under-researched area with many unanswered questions about who would benefit most from vaccination, and therefore what the most appropriate and cost-effective vaccination strategies are.

UNSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM) has been undertaking a large-scale population based prospective cohort study that looks at vaccine preventable diseases in older adults.  

The study, led by Associate Professor Bette Liu, aims to determine vaccination strategies that will reduce health care costs and allow older Australians to live longer, healthier lives.

The project uses the 45 and Up Study, which has collected individual risk factor data on more than 250,000 older adults and linked them to disease notifications and health service outcomes.

Supported by funding from National Health and Medical Research Council, the study is providing crucial, original evidence to guide and refine current vaccination programs for common vaccine preventable diseases in adults.  It has provided new evidence on high risk groups for herpes zoster, influenza, and pertussis and is evaluating the effectiveness of of the pertussis vaccine in adults.

The study will allow better measurement of the serious spectrum of disease resulting from vaccine preventable diseases in older Australians. It will identify risk groups for whom vaccination may provide the most benefit, and provide estimates of the morbidity and associated costs that could be prevented under different vaccination strategies.