Ask people about vaccines and their first thought may be of immunising infants. But the future will see increasing focus on protecting older people against vaccine-preventable diseases, according to experts.
Speaking to Vaccines Today ahead of a session on life-span immunisation at the European Health Forum in Gastein, Austria, Prof David Taylor said changing demographic patterns will move older people closer to the centre of vaccination policy.
“In the first 200 years since Jenner pioneered the smallpox vaccine it was quite right to focus on childhood immunisation. As populations age, we need to think more about protecting older populations so that they may live healthy lives in their 60s, 70s and 80s,” said Prof Taylor who is Professor of Pharmaceutical and Public Health Policy, University College London School of Pharmacy.
He said prudent use of vaccines and medicines to improve preventative health interventions for adults in Europe can help to avoid premature death and disability.
“The size of the population that can benefit from immunisation later in life – against diseases such as herpes zoster, pneumonia, hepatitis and the flu – is limited but vaccination can still make a difference,” he said.
Older people do not always respond as well to immunisation as younger people, Prof Taylor added, but even if the older population is only partially protected it can be beneficial.
Prof Taylor said demographic trends – including ageing and global migration patterns – mean policymakers should ensure that all individuals are valued and can lead productive lives.
A workshop on life-span immunisation, supported by Pfizer, will take place at the European Health Forum in Gastein thisweek.
Vaccines Today will be reporting from the European Health Forum in Gastein from October 3 – October 6. Follow us on Twitter @vaccinestoday and use the hashtag #EHFG2012