Experts call for speeding up life-course immunisation in Southeast Asia

Thursday, Jul 01, 2021 12:18

An impage of the the “The Decade of Healthy Ageing in ASEAN: Role of Life-Course Immunisation”. — VNS Photo

Vaccination remains one of the most cost-effective interventions available to protect against infectious diseases, a report titled ‘The Decade of Healthy Ageing in ASEAN: Role of Life-Course Immunisation’ has emphasised.

Released by the EU-ASEAN Business Council, KPMG in Singapore and drug company Sanofi with support from the Western Pacific Pharmaceutical Forum (WPPF), it lists healthy ageing barriers in Southeast Asia and calls for urgent and greater focus on implementing life-course immunisation.

With age, the immune function goes into decline, increasing older people’s susceptibility to infectious diseases such as the flu and pneumonia, which can cause other health risks and complications, and vaccination helps protect against the diseases, it said.

Despite the obvious benefits, Southeast Asia lags behind the rest of the world in life-course immunisation, falling significantly short of the 75 per cent target rate set by the World Health Organization, it added.

John Jackson, president of the WPPF, said: “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 immunisation. Yet, the role and value of life-course vaccination or vaccination at every stage of life beyond childhood is not fully realised.

“Today’s 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, which seeks to inform programming and high-level dialogue at the regional and local levels, covers Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Viet Nam, the Philippines, and Indonesia with insights and inputs from 27 experts in the six countries as well as Switzerland and the US.

Chris Humphrey, executive director of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, said: “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.”

Eric Mansion, general manager, Asia Zone, Sanofi Pasteur, said: “Health is wealth but protecting our older adults goes beyond monetary impacts [since] 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 immunisation should urgently be prioritised 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.”

Jackson said: “Although further implementing life-course immunisation programmes will be a costly and logistically complex endeavour, the alternative will be far more expensive and not just in monetary terms.

“Time is running out, and swift, decisive action to address the issues that threaten to undermine having a healthy, ageing population is imperative.” — VNS

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