A recent article by Dr. Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, entitled “Does vaccine ageism amount to gerontocide?”, considers a critical question on vaccine distribution amongst older people. The article describes the nature of ageism which has characterized the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the global failure of governments to protect the rights of older people. The pandemic has only furthered the inequities and ageism experienced by older people globally. As Dr. Lloyd Sherlock highlights, the first year of the pandemic was marked by a narrative of “intergenerational injustice” in which younger people felt that protective public health measures meant sacrificing economic and social opportunity to protect the well-being of older people. In countries where the pandemic was most dire, COVID-19 treatment was prioritized based on age to ration healthcare resources, leaving many older people left behind and diminishing the value of older people in society.
Now, as COVID-19 vaccines are distributed, some countries are continuing to leave older people behind in their national strategies. India and the Philippines, for example, are failing to prioritize vaccination amongst older adults, despite the known increased risk of fatality due to COVID-19 in this age group. In India, many over 60 years of age have not yet received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the Philippines, the vaccination strategy was shifted to prioritize “so-called working age adults”. According to the authors “this vaccination policy will not save lives: it will contribute to thousands, potentially millions of avertable deaths.”
Correspondent at Reuters Ms. Patpicha Tanakasempipat, reports that older people in Thailand are one of the least vaccinated groups in the country. Government data showed an estimated 6.7% of people aged 60 years and older were vaccinated, compared with 15% of those 18 to 59 years. Despite initially announcing that older adults would be prioritized, regional outbreaks and plans to resume international tourism led to a shift in vaccination priorities. As a result, younger people were able to be vaccinated more easily than older age groups. The situation in Thailand, and countries in this region demonstrates the urgent need to have consistent vaccination policies based on science and implemented with a sound comprehensive set of action that accommodates the needs of older people and other marginalized groups.
At a time when the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021-2030 (the Decade) calls for a whole-of-society response to improve the lives of older people and re-think ageing, vaccine equity amongst all groups must be at the top of global agendas. In alignment with the Decade and World Health Organization’s Immunization Agenda 2030, global action is needed to ensure that older people can fulfill their potential in dignity and equality. Currently, much work is needed globally to ensure that the rights and well-being of older people are protected and respected, and no more older people are left behind in receiving life-saving vaccinations.
The International Federation on Ageing (IFA)’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing entitled “Rights Matter” brings together global leaders fighting to protect the rights of older people. The Vaccines4Life Summit, a full-day pre-conference event entitled “Driving Policy to End Immunisation Inequity: The Future of Adult Vaccination and Lessons Learned from the Coronavirus Pandemic”, is a critical point of connection to be informed, to share learnings and take collective action on ensuring immunization equity.
As part of this event, Dr. Peter Lloyd Sherlock will speak in a session entitled “Health is a right not a question of income: Vaccinating hard to reach groups” and share his expertise on fostering equity in adult immunization as a key action in reaching universal health coverage.
Visit the conference website to register for this pre-conference event and explore the conference theme “older people and pandemics”.
To learn more about achieving immunization equity, contact these experts.
- Prof. Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Professor of Social Policy and International Development, University of East Anglia
- Dr. Ida Berenice Molina Aguilera, Head of Honduras’ Extended Program for Immunization (EPI)
- Dr. Isabella Ballalai, Vice President, Brazilian Immunization Society
Prof. Peter Lloyd-Sherlock Professor of Social Policy and International Development
Peter has wide interests in the health and wellbeing of older people in low and middle-income countries.
Dra. Ida Berenice Molina Aguilera Head of Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI)
Dr. Ida Berenice Molina Aguilera is the Head of Honduras’ Extended Program for Immunization (EPI) program.
Dr. Isabella Ballalai Vice President
Dr. Isabella Ballalai is President of the Brazilian Immunization Society