Presidential Symposium on Immunisation for All Ages
Highlights from IFA’s 16th Global Conference
The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) recently held its 16th Global Conference on Ageing entitled Challenge, Transformation, Change which aimed to influence and shape policy that improves the quality of life of current and future generations of older people. The IFA’s 16th Global Conference boldly focused on themes not often prioritized and actioned in policy dialogue, including Immunisation for All Ages as a key theme.
Vaccine-preventable diseases have an outsized impact on the health and functioning of older adults, often even more at-risk due to chronic comorbid conditions. Disease prevention via vaccination is key to protecting function and intrinsic capacity across the life course, thereby fostering healthy ageing. Despite the benefits of vaccination, coverage rates beyond paediatric populations in South-East Asia remain low, a trend also seen globally.
The Presidential Symposium on Immunisation for All Ages entitled “A life-course approach to vaccination to achieve health equity in Asia and beyond”, sponsored by Sanofi Global, joined experts Prof. Weerasak Muangpaisan, Prof. Paul Van Buynder, Prof. Stefan Gravenstein, and Dr. Ryan Macfarlane to call to action to prioritize a life-course approach to immunization in the Asia region and globally.
Meet the Speakers
Prof. Weerasak Muangpaisan, Vice president and Scientific Chair of the Thai Society of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine and a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) South-East Asia Expert Panel on Healthy Ageing set the scene on the importance of vaccination to support healthy ageing, maintenance of intrinsic capacity and function. He highlighted the benefits of vaccination for older people beyond preventing infectious disease, which include improving quality of life and preventing mortality. ⁽¹⁾ He additionally highlighted Ministry of Public Health initiatives in Thailand to provide free influenza vaccination.
Prof. Paul Van Buynder, a Public Health Physician and a Professor in the School of Medicine at Griffith University in Queensland, spoke about barriers to adult vaccination, including lack of data on the true burden of disease, vaccine hesitancy, public health messaging and communication, and challenges with access to vaccination (e.g., cost of vaccination, complicated pathways to receive vaccination). He called for building trust between the population, government, and health associations to address vaccine hesitancy and uptake, and a government-driven approach to vaccine programs.
Prof. Stefan Gravenstein, Professor of Geriatrics at Brown University, shared evidence on the burden of influenza in older people, particularly its impact on function. He presented evidence that vaccination can attenuate severe illness ⁽²,³⁾ and provide cardiovascular protection ⁽⁴⁾, and that more immunogenic vaccines are more effective at preventing severe outcomes from influenza infection. ⁽⁵⁾
Dr. Ryan Macfarlane, Director at C&M International LLC and Secretariat for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Vaccines Task Force, presented on the APEC Vaccines Task Force which sets out to ensure APEC member economies have resilient and sustainable life-course immunization programs by 2030. The action plan of the Task Force outlines targets to enable countries to recognize the value of vaccination and vaccine innovation, prioritize access and uptake of vaccination across the life-course, and establish proven and innovative mechanisms for sustainable immunization financing. ⁽⁶⁾
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