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Life Course Immunization: More Than Just Flu Season

April 23, 2020  · 3 min read

Immunization is recognized globally as an effective means of preventing and minimizing the impact of infectious diseases such as influenza, pneumonia and shingles. An article in the Press Telegram “Senior Living: Scheduling your immunizations as you age” offers an informed perspective on the importance of vaccination throughout a person’s life course. Dr. David Michalik, a pediatric infectious disease specialist in Long Beach, California said “vaccinations that you received as a child also can wear off over time, requiring revaccination or a booster shot to boost your immune system’s ‘memory.’”

In the absence of revaccination or booster shots in later life and as the immune system “memory” declines, older adults are more susceptible to vaccine preventable diseases. This is particularly amplified in the presence of behavioural risk factors like smoking and/or chronic conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or respiratory ailments. 

Although local vaccination schedules vary considerably, Dr. Michalik provided a general statement of recommended vaccinations for adults in the local situe:

-         50 years or over: annual influenza vaccination, a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster every 10 years, and two doses of the shingles vaccine;

-         60 years or over: pneumonia vaccination; and

-         65 years or over: annual high-dose flu vaccine can provide additional protection and is specifically developed for this age group.

Global efforts to increase vaccination rates over the past few decades have resulted in a decrease in mortality of communicable diseases from 33% in 1990, to 25% in 2010. While European Union public health policies recommend at least a 75% rate of influenza vaccination among high-risk groups all countries, with the exception of the United Kingdom, are well below the target. In a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), under 50% of older French adults aged over 65 years reported being vaccinated against influenza in the 2014-15 season. 

An IFA led multidisciplinary expert meeting “Vaccination in France: Changing the Public Perception” in Lyon in December 2019 aimed to reconcile perspectives from important stakeholder groups in the current vaccination discourse and identify challenges and opportunities for improving participation in vaccination campaigns.

Prof. Jean-Pierre Michel of Geneva University’s Medical School reported during the meeting that effective adult vaccination schedules can support maintenance of functional ability and help prevent 2.5 million deaths annually due to communicable diseases. An underestimated benefit of both influenza and pneumonia immunization is the growing evidence of a reduction in cardiovascular complications including stroke and heart failure in adults over 65 years of age. 

To learn more about secondary benefits of vaccination and related emerging research areas in cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, contact IFA Experts Prof. Jean-Pierre Michel, Professor of Geriatric Medicine in Geneva, Switzerland, Prof. Catherine Weil-Olivier, Professor of Pediatrics at Paris Diderot University, or Prof. Antoni Torres, Professor of Medicine and Head of the Respiratory Intensive Care Unit at Barcelona University’s Hospital Clinic. In addition, consider following the @Vaccines4Life Twitter page, and being involved with the World Coalition on Adult Vaccination, where stakeholders collaborate on a common agenda around a life course approach to vaccination, with special attention to later life.



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