Vaccination continues to be one of the most cost-effective interventions available to protect the elderly against infectious diseases.
In a report titled “The Decade of Healthy Ageing in ASEAN: Role of Life-Course Immunization,” the EU-ASEAN Business Council, KPMG in Singapore, and Sanofi, with the support of the Western Pacific Pharmaceutical Forum (WPPF), pointed to an urgent need to focus on the implementation of life-course immunization.
Despite the obvious benefits of vaccines against various diseases and ailments, Southeast Asia continues to lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to life-course immunization, falling significantly short of the 75 percent immunization target rate set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“While the region focuses on Covid-19, and rightly so, we need to also give attention urgently to another pressing issue—ageing societies. As we age, we are more susceptible to health complications. Many diseases that afflict the elderly can be thwarted by immunization. Yet, the role and value of life-course vaccination or vaccination at every stage of life beyond childhood is not fully realized,” explains John Jackson, president of the WPPF.
“The report provides a starting point for governments across the region to implement incremental policy changes that can further empower healthy ageing and economies.”
The report’s recommendations include recognizing life-course immunization as an important part of healthy ageing and dedicating resources to implementing this as part of healthy-ageing policies. It also calls for engaging the expertise and knowledge of health-care providers and leveraging their influence to be advocates for life-course immunization. It also seeks to support grassroots efforts to share relevant narratives around the efficacy and safety of vaccines, as well as to help bridge the digital gap among the elderly to access information and other matters related to vaccination.
Another aspect of the report focused on improving public access to vaccination points to ensure that people who want to be vaccinated can do so at their convenience. It also seeks to gain private sector support through inclusion of annual vaccination in employee benefit programs and development of insurance products by health insurers that help cover vaccination costs.
“While we are living longer, we are not necessarily living healthier,” according to Chris Humphrey, Executive Director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council.
“This report shows us the dividends that we can harness by better ensuring a healthier, more productive older working population. Southeast Asia needs to start planning now to ensure that we take the right policy action—including preventative care.”
Beyond monetary impact
For his part, Eric Mansion, General Manager, Asia Zone, Sanofi Pasteur, said that health is wealth but protecting older adults goes beyond monetary impact—healthy ageing allows ageing populations to enjoy a good quality of life in their golden years and contribute meaningfully to social situations and beyond.
“Life-course immunization should urgently be prioritized as a vital part of healthy ageing policies in Southeast Asia, to lessen the impact of ageing societies and to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.”
“Although further implementing life-course immunization programs will be a costly and logistically complex endeavor, the alternative will be far more expensive and not just in monetary terms,” added Jackson. “Time is running out, and swift, decisive action to address the issues that threaten to undermine having a healthy, ageing population is imperative.”