The recovery of health systems around the world post-pandemic will depend upon a re-evaluation and re-orientation of national health priorities and investment strategies. Faced with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable including older people and those of all ages with underlying conditions, a thoughtful evidence-based approach to priority-setting must commence now.
A reliable framework to improve the health of older people and reduce the health system burden of many infectious diseases is a strong immunization strategy founded upon a life course approach. The WHO Immunization Agenda 2030 in the context of the Decade of Healthy Ageing provides evidence-based guidance to Member States to pursue the benefits of vaccines through four core principles:
1. Placing people in the centre of strategic priorities
2. Securing national leadership of immunization strategies
3. Establishing broad partnerships for implementation
4. Using data as the driving force of national policies
A recent article by Devex describes how adoption of and adherence to strategic priorities outlined in the WHO Immunization Agenda 2030 can be a game-changer in the field of global health.
This is a critical time for concerted focus and solidarity around strengthening immunization policies that leave no one behind. The momentum around vaccine development and promotion in light of COVID-19 can build upon existing immunization policies and focus attention on increasing access to vaccines across all ages and socio-economic backgrounds.
The link between uptake of existing vaccines against diseases such as influenza or pneumonia and the health system burden of the COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly evident. As adult vaccination uptake increases, three benefits emerge:
1. Older adults experience fewer complications and outcomes from influenza and pneumonia such as hospitalizations;
2. Fewer hospitalizations for vaccine-preventable disease complications means that more health care resources, including health professionals, are available to treat COVID-19 patients; and
3. A long-term reduction in the burden to health systems can result in greater workforce productivity and economic benefits for communities and countries.
World Immunization Week (WIW), taking place 24-30 April 2020, is an opportunity for the global community to reflect upon the social and economic benefits of standing-up for the WHO Immunization Agenda 2030. #VaccinesWork for All, the theme of WIW further emphasizes the need to improve access to vaccines globally in an equitable manner that leaves no one behind.
The International Federation on Ageing’s (IFA) World Coalition on Adult Vaccination serves as a platform for connecting thought leaders in the field of life course vaccination. The IFA Expert Centre provides a point of contact to specialists in the fields of epidemiology, vaccination and more. For more information on immunization strategies as they relate to older people, contact Prof. Raina MacIntyre, Head of Public Health and Community Medicine in Sydney, Australia or Dr. Isabella Ballalai, President of the Brazilian Immunization Society in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing “Rights Matter” in Niagara Falls, Canada 3-5 March 2021 is an international forum for knowledge exchange among global thought leaders in the field of vaccination throughout life. The Vaccines4Life Summit and the IFA Presidential Symposium on Vaccination will feature presentations and interactive workshops from leading experts. Registration is open; visit www.ifa2021.ngo.
Prof. Raina MacIntyre Head, School of Public Health and Community Medicine & Professor of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology
Prof. MacIntyre is an international expert in infectious diseases, vaccinology (especially for the elderly) and biosecurity.
Dr. Isabella Ballalai President
Dr. Isabella Ballalai is President of the Brazilian Immunization Society