Over 50% of eligible aged care residents haven’t had their COVID-19 booster shots

As Australia approaches its fourth winter during the pandemic, we are once again experiencing a rise COVID-19 infections. This brings a higher chance of each of us becoming infected and potentially seriously ill.

Elderly people living in aged care are one of the groups facing the greatest risk. But the latest figures from the federal health department show that as of May 24, just over 40% of aged care residents estimated eligible for a booster vaccination have had their latest shot and are fully vaccinated.

What do the numbers say

As of 24 May 2023, there were: 

  • 93,058 (50.4% of total) aged care residents estimated with a vaccine dose or infection in the last 6 months, and hence not currently eligible for a COVID-19 2023 booster dose. 

  • 59,725 (42.9% of estimated eligible) aged care residents who received a COVID-19 2023 booster dose. 

That leaves over 50% of eligible aged care residents vulnerable to infection going into winter, a time of greater risk for respiratory infections, particularly influenza.

aged care booster uptake

Is it just because of vaccination fatigue?

It’s not entirely clear why COVID booster rates in aged care are so low.

There may be some COVID vaccine fatigue, given that most residents are due for their fourth or fifth dose. Residents and their families may have tuned out to the public health messages about the importance of vaccinations and keeping up to date with booster shots.

Julie Leask, from the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald on this matter. “I think it reflects the fact that there’s a lot of vaccine fatigue out there, and very likely in aged care facilities as well,” she said. “People are wanting to move on from COVID, but we can’t move on from the importance of having boosters for those who really need them.”

Changes in the way COVID vaccines are delivered to aged care may have also played a role. Early in the pandemic, vaccine delivery was coordinated federally. However, now aged care centres are responsible for ensuring residents have access to the recommended COVID vaccine, with primary healthcare providers, such as GPs and pharmacists, administering the shots.

Waning immunity

If we take into account immunity gained through recent infection over the past six months, just over half of aged care residents are estimated to have adequate levels of immunity.

As advanced age is often associated with weakened immune systems, the elderly in aged care homes struggle to fight off infection. Additionally, many elderly individuals have pre-existing health conditions that can further compromise their immune systems and make them more susceptible to severe illness if they contract COVID-19. Living in close quarters within aged care facilities also increases the likelihood of exposure to the virus, as it can easily spread among residents and staff, often before any of those involved are aware it has happened.

We hope to see a rise in booster uptake in aged care now that the flu vaccinations are also in full swing. It’s important for families to encourage elderly loved ones and their aged care providers to stay vigilant about booster vaccinations.

Heathershaw’s vaccination clinic is open with appointments available each week. 

As COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be co-administered, joint appointments for flu and COVID-19 boosters vaccines are also available during some of our sessions (see our website to identify which sessions allow for joint immunisation).


Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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