ILC-UK and the case for adult immunisation

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In 2011 the International Longevity Centre – UK along with a host of leading European public health advocates formed SAATI – the Supporting Active Ageing Through Immunisation partnership. Partners from a range of backgrounds, from the University of Barcelona to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases, came together to promote the development of better adult immunisation strategies and policies across Europe.

SAATI aims to encourage an informed discussion among public health authorities, policy makers, professional medical societies and patient groups on the need for adult vaccinations to combat vaccine preventable diseases such as flu, pneumonia and diphtheria. Formation of the group has been driven by members’ perception that there is a serious absence of vaccination programmes across Europe for older people and a corresponding lack of publicly available evidence on the huge benefits that adult vaccination can bring. The annual cost-burden for treating pneumonia alone across Europe is 10 billion Euros [1] and 25,000 Europeans are estimated to die each year as a result of drug-resistant infections [2].

There are a number of reasons that qualify adult immunisation as a crucial public health intervention. The contraction of vaccine-preventable diseases can result in a number of co-morbidities, as has been shown by studies linking reduced rates of cardiac arrest to the take up of the seasonal influenza vaccine [3]. The vaccination of adults also has an important role to play in maintaining herd immunity, a fundamental principle that underlies vaccination strategies more broadly. Herd immunity derives from the rationale that if a significant majority of the population are immunised, then chains of infection are disrupted and it will be less likely that a susceptible individual will come into contact with an infectious individual. Through herd immunity, some of the most malignant communicable diseases have been eliminated from the industrialised world. The vaccination of older people is a necessary step in ensuring that herd immunity thresholds are maintained, and that older people don’t become ‘transmitters’ of communicable diseases that would otherwise be inactive.

More broadly, adult vaccination makes a significant contribution to healthy ageing, and represents an efficacious preventative health strategy lever. Reducing morbidities caused by vaccine-preventable diseases allows older people to remain part of the workforce and continue to be active participants within society for longer.

The Global Alliance has been working on issues related to adult vaccination for over six years, and have published: Immunizations – Not Just for Kids[4], Life Course Vaccination – Impact of Life Course Vaccination on an Ageing Population [5] and Life Course Immunisation: Improving adult immunisation to support healthy ageing [6]. The consistent thread woven throughout each of these publications is that there must be a life course approach to vaccination, rather than just focussing on paediatric vaccination, which has become an established health norm across much of the industrialised world.

The SAATI partnership will launch a major report on adult immunisation in Europe, in the form of a report card, in the Autumn this year. The report card will include a detailed overview of the adult immunisation policies in place throughout the EU-27, an analysis on the cost-effectiveness of implementing adult immunisation strategies, and an exploration of what could be achieved through improved public awareness and education. To coincide with this release, ILC-UK will launch a policy brief that sets out some of the main SAATI findings within the UK policy context to key figures from across academia, industry and policy.

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Matt Hawkins and Trinley Walker, ILC-UK

Notes

[1] Welte T. et al. Clinical and economic burden of community-acquired pneumonia in adults. Thorax. 2012;(67):71-79.

[2] ECDC/EMEA. The Bacterial Challenge: Time to React, ECDC/EMEA Joint Technical Report, Stockholm. Sept 2009, p. vi.

[3] Siscovick, D., Raghunathan, T., Lin, D., Weinmann, S., Arbogast, P., Lemaitre, R., Psaty, B., Cobb, L. (200) Influenza Vaccine and Risk of Primary Cardiac Arrest.  American Journal of Epidemiology. (152)7, pp.674-677.

[4] Bloom, H. (2007) Immunizations – Not just for Kids. New York: International Longevity Centre – USA.

[5] Gusmano, M.K. & Michel, J-P. (2009)) Life Course Vaccination – Impact of Life Course Vaccination on an Ageing Population. Alliance for Health & the Future at the International Longevity Centre  Policy Brief Vol. 4., No. 1, pp.1-8. Paris: Alliance for Health & the Future.

[6] Taylor, R. & Sinclair, D. (2011) Life Course Immunisation: Improving adult immunisation to support healthy ageing. London: International Longevity Centre – UK.

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