Vaccination rates plummet among older Australians

Immunisation rates for both COVID-19 and flu have plummeted among older Australians in 2024, with experts blaming difficulties in accessing shots alongside lingering pandemic-era vaccine misinformation.

After maintaining consistently high COVID vaccination rates between 2020 and 2022, the latest government stats from May show that despite being one of the most at-risk groups from COVID, only 40 per cent of people aged 75 and over are up to date with their booster shots.

The same data revealed only 25 per cent of those aged 65-74 are up to date, while just four per cent of adults under 65 have had a booster shot in the past six months.

There are currently 487 active COVID outbreaks across Australian aged care facilities. Despite this, only 74 per cent of aged care residents have had a booster since the beginning of last year.

Department of Health advice still recommends a booster shot every 12 months for adults aged between 18 and 74, while those over 75 are recommended to receive a booster every six months.

Flu vaccine rates also drop

Making matters worse, vaccination rates for influenza have also plummeted to their lowest level in five years among people aged 65 and over, with just 52.7 per cent receiving a flu shot as of 1 June.

Flu case numbers have been steadily rising this year, with figures released by NSW Health showing both influenza and the more serious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have been at high levels for months.

Older people are particularly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like COVID, flu and RSV and are at a much higher risk of developing serious complications requiring hospitalisations. People aged 65 and over are around six times more likely to die from a respiratory illness than younger adults.

Why has there been such a drop?

It seems older Australians are getting complacent, and it has experts worried. But there are differing opinions as to why that is.

Professor Peter McIntyre, former director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, told The Guardian he believes the major reason driving the drop in vaccination rates is difficulty accessing vaccine services.

He said there needs to be more opportunities for accessing vaccination outside of appointments with GPs, who could often be difficult to get an appointment with, such as through at home-visit services.

Both COVID and flu vaccines can be obtained from pharmacies, but Prof. McIntyre says many older Australians can have difficulty accessing even these services, particularly in low-socioeconomic areas.

But Professor Adrian Esterman, chair of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of South Australia, believes something more sinister may be at play – COVID-era vaccine misinformation.

“I think the general thrust of what we’re seeing is that COVID has put a spanner in the works,” he said.

“It’s basically made a lot of people scared of getting vaccinated – not only adults but of getting their kids vaccinated – because of all the hype about how dangerous vaccines are.

He says while there are documented side effects in some people, the numbers are tiny and the benefits vastly outweigh the negatives.

“The actual number of severe adverse events is minuscule compared to the millions and millions of doses given out.”

Whatever the reason for the drop, it’s clear we need to get vaccination rates among older Australians back on track.

Have you had a COVID booster shot this year? What about your regular flu shot? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: The COVID vaccine Aussies can’t get

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. It’s also a good idea to make sure your pneumonia vaccines are up to date – in fact, review all your vaccines including tetanus and shingles. Yes, there will always be adverse reactions to any medical treatment, but by and large we are very lucky to be able to protect ourselves from so many diseases

  2. Reasons for lack of vaccination are the changing strains without a suitable vaccine,most of us in Agedcare got covid just prior to Christmas and are advised no vaccine for 6 months and the misleading information given to the Australian Public by medicos and Governments about vaccinations and their safety has left distrust among many cohorts of people who are living with

  3. We are at a loss – we have had all 5 shots for Covid ( to date ) neither the Chief Health officer or our doctor has suggested we have more – so, what the hell do we do. Living in the country there are not that many surgeries who are doing the Covid shots – so, someone in authority – make up your minds about how, when and where.

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