As populations age, chronic health conditions such as diabetes, lung and heart disease prevail and leave many older adults at risk for serious complications from vaccine preventable diseases such as influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, pertussis and shingles. Vaccination throughout life signifies a life course approach to not only immunisation but also to healthy ageing. Intergovernmental agendas such as the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing and the WHO Immunization Agenda 2030 call on governments to implement comprehensive public health programs including immunisation to save lives and maintain functional ability.
‘Vaccines bring us closer’ was the 2021 theme for World Immunization Week, highlighting the value of immunizations beyond the COVID-19 agenda. Awareness of the serious consequences of infectious diseases is often a barrier to population coverage.
A recent article written by Sofiat Akinola, Chris Hardesty, and Ada Wong shines light on the severely low adult immunization rates across the Asia Pacific as a result of poor awareness compared to the rates in the United States and the United Kingdom.
While it is useful to consider rates in other countries, work by the International Federation on Ageing is cautious in benchmarking and comparison because not only are the health systems vastly different, as are cultural influences.
Akinola et al stressed the need for clear and transparent communication on the effectiveness and benefits of vaccination to an ageing population, and this was seen to be insufficient and inconsistent. The recent expert discussion conducted by Sanofi and KPMG in the Asia-Pacific region, with the support of World Economic Forum, showed that many older adults faced uncertainties and a lack of knowledge on the efficacy of vaccination as a key component of healthy ageing.
Three pillars were identified to drive sustainable action towards equitable life course immunization:
1. Adult immunization being integrated into national immunization strategies and healthy ageing policies, and regularly reviewed through robust data collection efforts.
2. Targeted and consistent communication strategies that reach those who are currently marginalized and often invisible.
3. Ensuring that nations are able to implement novel models of sustainable healthcare funding beyond the reliance of income taxes.
In order to ensure vaccines do bring us closer across the globe, collaborative action that recognizes the pressing barriers faced in developing regions is vital to increasing uptake rates.
Aligned with the Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) and the WHO Immunisation Agenda 2030, the IFA’s Vaccines4Life Program envisions a world in which vaccination throughout life is a pillar to healthy ageing, recognized through appropriate governmental investment in prevention and promotion.
Follow the #Vaccine4Life platform to learn more about the upcoming project on Ending Immunization Inequity which will provide findings on the significant inequities that contribute to low uptake rates, and sign the pledge to engage in this movement.
To connect with an expert on this topic, engage with Dr Tam Yat-Hung, Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor at The University of Hong Kong. His practice is mainly focused on epidemiological investigation of disease outbreak and implementation of control and preventive measures with expertise in public health education.
Yat-Hung Tam Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor
Dr. Tam's research includes vaccination strategies, infectious disease surveillance, epidemiology and training of public health specialists.