COVID-19 has continuously shown the disproportionate impact of the pandemic between the Global North and Global South. Since March 2021 there have been 117 million cases and 3.83 million deaths globally with the majority of deaths occurring in those 65 years of age and older. The pandemic has also highlighted more broadly the inadequate systems and models of care for older persons globally.
Most recently the attention has turned to the reality of global vaccination inequity with 75% of COVID-19 vaccines having been distributed among 10 countries. As the variants continue evolving and emerging so does the number of deaths in the Global South where now countries that previously had been able to control the pandemic are faced with mounting number of infections and deaths but not enough vaccine supply to curb the numbers and stop the spread of variants.
The G7 Summit took place on 7th June 2021, where G7 leaders announced a pledge and commitment to provide 870 million COVID-19 vaccines to be shared internationally. The pledge also states that at least half of these vaccines are to be delivered by the end of 2021 through COVAX. COVAX is one of the pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France. COVAX is a global collaboration to ensure equitable global distribution of vaccines. The pledge is an attempt to support global equitable access and to help end the continued impact the pandemic is having in the Global South as well as the emergence of new strains. Although the pledge is a step towards addressing issues of vaccine scarcity and inequity, questions arise as to how the vaccines will be distributed and if older persons will be prioritized in vaccination roadmaps.
COVID-19 has made clear the vulnerability of older persons. Older persons are an integral part of societies and carry the collective wisdom of society. The pandemic has meant the continued isolation of older persons and much of the media’s focus has served to dehumanize older persons, ignoring their importance within communities and nations. With the prospect of vaccines reaching the most vulnerable in the Global South now is the time to prioritize the needs and wellbeing of older persons.
To ensure older persons are no longer ignored and healthy ageing is prioritized as a strategic goal globally there are a series of tools and frameworks in place like the United Nations (UN) Decade of Healthy Ageing and World Health Organization (WHO) Immunization Agenda 2030. Both reports envision a world in which vaccination is a pillar to healthy ageing and now with the prospect of being able to immunize older persons in the context of the pandemic it is important that this pillar is recognized and implemented by Member States globally.
The International Federation of Ageing’s (IFA) Vaccines4Life similarly envisions a world through which vaccination is a pillar to healthy ageing and is a platform that serves as a point of connection on adult vaccination.
Follow the #Vaccine4Life platform to learn more about the work of IFA and multisectoral partners that comprise the World Coalition on Adult Vaccination on ending immunization inequity and how to join the movement and collaborate with global experts on bridging the inequity gap.
The IFA within its 15th Global Conference on Ageing will be hosting a Vaccines4Life Summit which will further emphasize the importance of adult vaccination by bringing together experts and leaders in immunization, ageing, public health, healthy policy, health economics, government to inspire change.
To learn more about the importance of adult vaccination please contact:
- Prof Roman Prymula, Director of University Hospital, University of Defense
- Dr Ian Philp, Deputy Medical Director at the Heart of England NHS Foundation
- Dr Mine Durusu-Tanriover, Professor of Internal Medicine, Hacettepe University