Global Coalition on Aging Calls for Adult Immunization to Top the Global Policy Agenda as a Core Preventive Health Strategy

New Report Shows Effectiveness of Immunization Through All Life Stages

NEW YORK CITY (July 11, 2013) – The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today called for attention from policymakers and the global health community to adopt a life-course approach to immunization.  In its new report, “Life-Course Immunization: A Driver of Healthy Aging,” GCOA highlights the absence of adult immunization in healthy aging strategies and the need for a greater awareness of the role of vaccines as a preventive measure as the global population ages.

The report was authored by a panel of experts across the medical fields of infectious disease and epidemiology, as well as global health policy and advocacy.  Authors include Javier Garau, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Barcelona and chair of SAATI (Supporting Active Ageing Through Immunisation); Michael W. Hodin, PhD, Executive Director of the Global Coalition on Aging; and Alexandre Kalache, MD, PhD, President of the International Longevity Centre – Brazil.

The global over-60 population will more than double between 2000 and 2050, reaching 2 billion, while the under-14 population contracts.  With this population structure shift comes the need for actionable aging strategies to address the ensuing health, social and economic challenges that accompany longevity.  A general assumption is that the aging process is marked by disability and dependence, and in fact, as one ages, the immune system gradually deteriorates, thus increasing the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.  However, medical innovations that prevent disease and therefore lead to healthier and more active aging – and cost savings – do exist.  These tools unfortunately have been underutilized.

Although immunization has become a staple in the development and health care of today’s children, systematic immunization for adults has not.  GCOA urges policymakers to learn from the success of the GAVI Alliance, which in one decade reached 257 million children with new and underused vaccines, thus preventing 5 million future deaths.  This success is commendable, and yet older adults are at the greatest risk for diseases which are preventable by vaccine.

“Longevity is a gift of 20th-century progress in health, sanitation and medical innovation, and it is essential in the 21st century that we take action and adapt to a population structure the world has never before seen,” said Hodin.  “Immunization has been a proven preventive strategy in children.  Now, with the aging shift, it has become a social and economic imperative for public health strategies to include a life-course approach to immunization.  It is also common sense that we would apply the valuable lessons from childhood immunization campaigns to today’s aging population.”

A life-course approach to immunization stresses vaccination through all stages of life, including the adult years, as a cost-effective strategy to promote healthy aging.  According to the GCOA report, one study “found that influenza immunization and pneumococcal immunization rank among the best preventive health services, as highly as smoking cessation and cancer screening.”  Further, “immunization throughout the life-course enables adults to age with reduced risk to disease, thereby enabling healthier, more active, and more productive aging.” This approach requires increased awareness and action to place adult vaccination at the top of the global public health agenda.  Currently, adult vaccination rates persist at far below target levels.

“As the population ages, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that longer life is marked by maintaining independence and preventing disability and illness,” said Garau.  “Many diseases which impact older adults are preventable, and a life-course approach to immunization is a powerful tool for enabling individuals and strengthening societies to be healthier and more productive.”

According to “Life-Course Immunization: A Driver of Healthy Aging,” there are six key policy areas upon which improvement can be made to further goals of improving quality of life while one ages.

  1. Increase awareness regarding the health benefits of life-course immunization among healthcare professionals, employers, employee groups, and unions.
  2. Establish or enhance existing surveillance systems to determine and monitor the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases in adults.
  3. Create alignment on adult vaccination schedules.
  4. Integrate adult immunizations into Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and create an adult immunization registry.
  5. Integrate adult vaccination in public and private payer access programs.
  6. Embed adult vaccination in core preventive services for adults.

The report was supported through a sponsorship from Pfizer Inc.

Latest Developments

We keep our members and partners in touch with the most recent updates and opinions in the worldwide dialogue on population longevity and related issues.

A Bipartisan Bill Could Prevent The Next Pandemic

In Washington, Republicans and Democrats are typically at loggerheads when it comes to healthcare policy. Just consider the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which made extensive changes to Medicare and also extended Affordable Care Act subsidies. Every single congressional Democrat voted for the legislation, while every single member of the GOP voted against it. But occasionally, a bill is such an obviously good idea, and so desperately needed, that it commands significant bipartisan support. The PASTEUR Act, co-sponsored by 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the House and two members of each party in the Senate, is just such a bill.

Korea Must Act Now to Combat Growing AMR Threat

Public officials are overlooking one of the gravest long-term threats to the Korean people, the health system, and economy: antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Some pathogens ― bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses ― have evolved strains that resist the antimicrobial medications we currently have available to fight them. Health care professionals often must watch helplessly as patients succumb to infections that antibiotics could once have easily beaten. They know that new antimicrobials, including and especially antibiotics, could easily gain the victory ― but they have none at their disposal.

Policy Statement on the Impact of Price Negotiations on Innovation, Healthy Aging and Equity

As the CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and a newly formed cross-sector Alliance for Health Innovation, we write to express our deep concern with the current legislation that allows for price “negotiations” in Medicare – a thinly veiled signal for America’s plunge into price controls that will have a devastating and adverse impact on biopharmaceutical innovation and our nations’ ability to support healthy aging. 

Ignoring the ‘Silver Economy’ May Be Getting Costly for Brands

In an ad for Airbnb that premiered earlier this year, a couple checks into a cozy Spanish villa. To the tune of Jay-Z's cover of "Me and My Girlfriend," the ad shows the pair settling into their rental and setting their collective dial to chill. They play ping-pong, sip some wine, and get ready for a night on the town. They're also in their 80s, celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. In no way does the ad characterize the couple as elderly or portray them as needing special aid or services — they are just active people who happen to be old. It's a rare example of ads featuring a realistic depiction of aging.

Health Equity Promise and That Innovation Thing

President Biden has pledged his administration to defeat cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases that target America’s aging population. To achieve these lofty goals, bold words must be backed up by bold actions.

Roundtable Report Highlights Importance of Immunizing Canada’s Caregivers Against Influenza, Identifying Challenges and Opportunities to Protect This Critical Group

The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a report summarizing key insights from an expert roundtable on vaccinating Canada’s caregivers against influenza. The roundtable, held virtually, brought together leading Canadian health policy experts, family caregivers, patient advocacy groups, aging experts, and other thought leaders to discuss challenges and strategies to reach this critically important yet hard-to-reach group.