The role of life-course immunisation in healthy ageing

Southeast Asia is a region where the demographic time bomb is ticking. Several countries in the region are already classified as “ageing societies”, with ageing populations expected to reach over 20% of the total population in the near future.[1]

As we get older, the risks associated with infectious diseases increase, due to reduced immunity and the increased likelihood of chronic diseases.

Coupled with the impact of COVID-19, urgent and sustainable solutions to ensure populations age healthily need to be explored. So crucial is healthy ageing that the United Nations has declared the years 2021-2030 as the Decade of Healthy Ageing.

A key part of healthy ageing is prevention, including life-course immunisation, which is immunisation at every stage of one’s life to prevent diseases and maximise health.

The benefits of life-course immunisation, especially among the elderly are clear:

  • In low- and middle-income countries, for every USD$1 spent on vaccines, there was a return of USD$16 on costs associated with illness, such as treatment costs and productivity losses[2]
  • In low- and middle-income countries, taking into account the broader economic impact of illness, vaccinations save USD$44 for every dollar spent1
  • Influenza vaccination in the elderly has shown to have a 50% reduction in hospitalisations and a 45% reduction in mortality during flu seasons[3]

However, the true value of vaccination in Southeast Asia is yet to be recognised, as uptake rates beyond childhood remain low – falling significantly short of the 75% immunization target rate set by the World Health Organization. [4] For example, only 2% of Malaysians[5] only 20% of the elderly population in Thailand are vaccinated against influenza.[6]

Key challenges remain to integrate life-course immunisation as part of healthy ageing policies.

Recognising the importance of life-course immunisation

Recognising life-course immunisation as an important part of prevention and healthy ageing to solidify policies related to life-course immunisation

Awareness and education

Understanding sentiments and themes that influence vaccination uptake, to prompt practical solutions and specific concerns to address

Accessing immunisation across the life-course

While recognising the importance of life-course immunisation is an important step, there is also an urgent need to identify sustainable ways to render financial support and accessible delivery to older people for vaccinations

Click on the boxes above to understand the different challenges and the solutions that have been proposed.

References:

[1] https://theaseanpost.com/article/southeast-asias-rapidly-ageing-population
[2] https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2016/expanding-use-of-vaccines-could-save-up-to-44-dollars-for-every-dollar-spent-study-suggests
[3] Torner N, et al. (2017). Costs associated with influenza-related hospitalization in the elderly. Hum Vaccin Immunother 13(2): 412-416.
[4] EU-ABC, KPMG, Sanofi and WPPF. (2021). ‘The Decade of Healthy Ageing in ASEAN: Role of Life-course Immunisation’. Available: https://healthyageingasean.org.
[5] H. H. Mydin. (2020) ‘Influenza vaccination important too.’ The New Straits Times. [Online]. Available: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/12/651562/influenza-vaccination-important-too
[6] J. T. Owusu, P. Praphasiri, D. Ditsungnoen, G. Leetongin, et al. ‘Seasonal influenza vaccine coverage among high-risk populations in Thailand, 2010–2012.’ Vaccine. 2015;33(5):742-747.
[7] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). Probabilistic Population Projections Rev. 1 based on the World Population Prospects 2019 Rev. 1. [Online]. Available: http://population.un.org/wpp/
[8] S. Aungkulanon, P.Y. Cheng, K. Kusreesakul, K. Bundhamcharoen, et al. ‘Influenza-associated mortality in Thailand, 2006–2011.’ Influenza and other respiratory viruses. 2015;9(6):298-304.
[9] S. Kiertiburanakul, W. Phongsamart, T. Tantawichien, W. Manosuthi, P. Kulchaitanaroaj. ‘Economic Burden of Influenza in Thailand: A Systematic Review.’ Inquiry. 2020;57:1-14.
[10] J. T. Owusu, P. Praphasiri, D. Ditsungnoen, G. Leetongin, et al. ‘Seasonal influenza vaccine coverage among high-risk populations in Thailand, 2010–2012.’ Vaccine. 2015;33(5):742-747.
[11] https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/336764/tha-epi-factsheet-2020-eng.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y