Introduction by Croakey: The past two years have seen a decline in global routine immunisation rates particularly in human papillomavirus (HPV) and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) vaccines.
In July, the World Health Organization reported that “the number of completely unvaccinated children increased by five million since 2019”.
Keeping up-to-date with immunisations is one way to reduce morbidity and mortality and help to minimise burden on overloaded hospital systems, according to Adjunct Professor Michael Moore AM.
It is also important to better understand the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on immunisation uptake and the role of health professionals in immunisation.
Chair of the Global Taskforce on Immunization Policy for the World Federation of Public Health Associations and member of the Immunization for All Ages Committee, Moore encourages health professionals to complete a survey investigating their views on immunisation.
Michael Moore writes:
The Immunization for All Ages initiative brings together a diverse group of organisations from around the world, working to combat inequity and improve access to immunisation to help promote health throughout life, to preserve function and to help prevent death and disability.
To achieve this, the IFAA calls for action through a manifesto in support of a life course approach to immunisation to be strengthened through strategic alignment with international health agendas.
Through the Global Taskforce on Immunization Policy, the World Federation of Public Health Associations is also attempting to better understand the changing role of health professionals in regard to immunisation.
A survey being conducted by the WFPHA is attempting to understand the impact of COVID-19. All health professionals, from those on the front line to public servants writing policy and all in between are encouraged to participate in the survey.
The survey looks across the life course and includes vaccination coverage in children.
Of particular concern has been the decrease in the commitment of parents to the regular vaccination of their children and the reduction in coverage in some countries.
The WFPHA is attempting to understand, amongst other things, the influence of health professionals on vaccination rates. As the WFPHA is in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), this information will be made available to the WHO (with analysis) as soon as possible.
The World Health Summit
The World Health Summit in Berlin this year provided an excellent venue for pursuing the issue of immunisation throughout life. Childhood immunisation is well understood in Australia and uptake has been amongst the highest levels internationally.
However, with the negative reaction to controls implemented in order to battle COVID-19 and the opportunity for the anti-vaxxers to have disproportionate media attention, there are increasing challenges in many countries.
With the coming winter in Europe and withdrawal of almost all control measures, vaccination for COVID-19 has become even more important. As learnt from the Southern Hemisphere, vaccination against respiratory conditions has become more important than ever.
Reducing the incidence of influenza, pneumococcal, COVID-19 and Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) through appropriately targeted vaccination programs will assist in reducing morbidity and mortality and will also assist in preventing overload of hospital systems.
Of particular importance is ambulance ramping, strain on emergency departments in hospitals and postponement or cancellation of elective surgery.
The presentation of members of the IFAA group at a side event for the World Health Summit provided an opportunity to reach national governments, NGOs and other influencers in order to encourage immunisation at all ages.
To do this the IFAA advocacy approaches are anchored in a manifesto that is based on three fundamentals:
- Prioritise immunisation throughout life as a key pillar of expanded prevention strategies and a central component of universal health coverage.
- Remove barriers to access for appropriate immunisation throughout life to ensure all people are protected and no one is left behind.
- Reduce inequities in timely, appropriate, and affordable access to immunisation throughout life.
Despite WHO Immunization Agenda 2030 targets, millions of adults are not immunised with one or more of the vaccines recommended for their age group and status, putting themselves and others at risk for certain infectious diseases.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have been exploring different ways to deliver vaccination. This has highlighted the need for a change of delivery infrastructure, in particular, to support the immunisation of older adults.
In a nutshell, expanded vaccination will protect the individual, support health and social care systems and families.
At the World Health Summit, I argued that it is against the backdrop of strained health systems, the need to build appropriate confidence in the safety, efficacy and quality of vaccines approved by regulatory authorities should be viewed as a priority for governments.
Throughout Australia, immense confidence was shown in vaccination against COVID-19 as such high proportions of people came forward to receive their initial shots. This should be seen as an opportunity to build confidence in immunisation across the life course.
A key element of building vaccine confidence in the community is the role played by health professionals as a trusted source of information.
The concept of vaccine fatigue has been examined with an emphasis on the importance of effective vaccine communications and building trust in order to counteract the sentiment. The need for appropriate campaigns and re-emphasising the efficacy of vaccination on an individual and population level is critical.
This is one of the reasons that the Global Taskforce on Immunization Policy of the WFPHA is pursuing the survey attached to this article and why Croakey readers are encouraged to share and participate.
The aim is to assist the WFPHA to carry on its advocacy work at the national and international level to protect population health.
Participate in the survey
Participation is easy and can be accessed through this link or alternatively using this QR code.
About the author
Adjunct Professor Michael Moore AM PhD is the current chair of the Global Taskforce on Immunization Policy for the World Federation of Public Health Associations and is a Past President of the WFPHA. He recently attended the World Health Summit in Berlin to present at a side event on the issue of improving uptake of immunisation beyond paediatric vaccination.
Moore is a member of the Immunization for All Ages Committee (IFAA) and his attendance at the World Health Summit was supported through this committee by Pfizer.
See Croakey’s archive of articles on child health.