Adult vaccination - an underused public health strategy to promote healthy ageing?

Despite tangible benefits, the SAATI Report indicated that there is reluctance to take firmer action to improve standards of adult immunisation in Europe. Vaccination policy in EU Member States mainly focuses on the young (aged below 18), to some extent the old (aged above 65), especially for seasonal influenza and pneumococcal diseases, and those in at-risk groups.

The report argued that adult vaccination remains an underused public health strategy to promote healthy ageing. Very few EU countries operate a comprehensive adult immunisation schedule. Countries often recommend vaccination to at-risk groups, whilst age-based recommendations – which allow individuals to self-assess their status – are not applied for all vaccine preventable diseases.

SAATI argued that the lack of implementation of these recommendations may be linked to a variety of factors, including:

■ Gaps in access to the vaccines and reimbursement;
■ Limited awareness of infectious diseases and vaccines in the population of all age groups;
■ Gaps in the promotion of adult vaccination schedules by public health authorities;
■ Limited leadership from healthcare professionals in recommending vaccination;
■ Inconsistent monitoring and surveillance systems.

As a result, adult vaccination coverage rates are often low and vary across European countries. They are also significantly lower than early childhood vaccination rates. In addition, Central and Eastern European countries often perform less well than Western Europe in terms of uptake results.