Every year, vaccines save thousands of lives and prevent countless sick days, yet millions of older Australians at high risk of serious illness are not getting their recommended shots and for some that may mean death. According to a new report A fair shot: How to close the vaccination gap, by the Grattan Institute, the pandemic has left many of us suffering vaccine burn-out - sick of vaccination, confused about which jabs we need, misled by misinformation, or complacent about the risks of not being vaccinated. On average about 600 Australians die from flu each year, pneumococcal disease may kill hundreds of people a year yet only one in five people in their 70s are vaccinated. Adult vaccinations slash the risk of illness, hospitalisation, and death, often by more than half. Flu vaccines typically prevent almost 60 per cent of illness. For people hospitalised with severe flu, vaccines reduce the risk of of requiring intensive care by about 25 per cent, and vaccines reduce the risk of death by about 30 per cent. COVID is less dangerous than it was at the peak of the pandemic, but is still killing thousands of Australians a year - since pandemic measures ended in October 2022, more than 5000 Australians have died from COVID, making it a leading cause of death. "The consequences are deadly," says report lead author and Grattan Institute Health Program Director Peter Breadon. "COVID is still with us, and it's still causing more deaths and putting more people in hospital than the flu." COVID vaccination rates have plunged. In December 2021, more than 90 per cent of high-risk adults had been vaccinated for COVID in the previous six months. Today, it is just 27 per cent. Less than half of people in their 70s are vaccinated for shingles despite a free vaccination program available for several years. A new free vaccine was introduced for people aged 65-plus in November. At the start of winter 2023, 2.5 million people over 65 weren't up-to-date with their vaccinations - two million more than a year earlier. The problem is worse for older people from some regions, suburbs and cultural backgrounds. "Year after year, the same groups miss out. If you don't speak English at home, you are only half as likely to get recommended COVID vaccinations. If you are Indigenous, you are a third less likely. Many people in rural areas miss out, and there are even big differences within cities. In different parts of Brisbane, for example, rates of flu vaccination vary by nearly 30 per cent," the report says. According to the report Australia urgently needs a policy reset to save lives and take pressure off hospitals. The Grattan Institute wants to see a new National Vaccination Agreement between the federal government and the states, to set ambitious targets and forge a plan to drive up vaccination. This would include regular vaccination 'surges', when people at high risk of severe disease could get vaccinated even if they'd had a recent infection or vaccination. The surges should be backed by government advertising campaigns, and every Australian at high risk of serious illness should be sent an SMS reminder to get vaccinated. Pharmacists and GPs should get more help to reach more people, including cultural groups that are missing out, and people living in aged care homes, Aboriginal health organisations should get more money to boost vaccination rates among Indigenous people and pandemic programs to reach communities with the lowest vaccination rates - including homeless people and some cultural groups - should be sustained and strengthened. "This report shows how we can make it easier for everyone to get a jab - especially the people who need it most," Mr Breardon said.