Stakeholders in the Nigeria healthcare delivery value-chain have raised awareness on the importance of adult vaccination for the prevention of infectious diseases, as they equally call for collective effort to attain herd immunity for the country.

This position was stated at a recent virtual media roundtable organised by Pfizer to discuss the need for vaccination in adults’ vis-à-vis the burden and management of vaccine preventable diseases in older people.

The resource persons at the media roundtable emphasized the importance of adult vaccination as well as the challenges and gaps in adult vaccination as these individuals have a decreased immunological response when they are exposed to infections.

“A systematic review of infections in individuals older than 65 years found that coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, were all associated with significantly higher risk of acquiring pneumococcal infections,” said Olufunke Adeyeye, a Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Lagos State University College of Medicine.

According to Adeyeye, vaccines have come to stay, hence there is a need to break the perception about immunization being only for children. She posits that policy makers need to address ‘cost’ in relation to adult vaccination and in-take on the back of evidence based information.

Ogugua Osi-Ogbu, the chief consultant, head of Geriatrics unit at the National Hospital, Abuja, said that vaccine preventable diseases are infectious diseases caused by viruses or bacteria that can be prevented with vaccines. She reiterated the fact that vaccines are not just for children; even if fully vaccinated as a child, adults may be at risk for other diseases due to age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions.

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“Pneumococcal disease is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in older adults. Many high-income countries recommend pneumococcal vaccination in older adults but, even where policies are in place, coverage is often low. Very few Low and/or mid-income countries currently provide pneumococcal vaccination to older adults as a part of a routine programme,” said Osi-Ogbu.

She posits that vaccines protect people vulnerable to the disease, such as babies too young to be vaccinated, people undergoing chemotherapy, the elderly, and people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. “Vaccines don’t just protect you. They protect those around you, too. Vaccines protect individuals against specific diseases, but they also help those who have not had the vaccine by creating herd immunity, Osi-Ogbu stated.

Kodjo Soroh, medical director, Sub-Saharan Africa, Pfizer, said that the drug manufacturer has a long history in vaccine research and development. According to Soroh, Pfizer leverages the development of innovative delivery systems and technologies in creating scalable solutions that address prevention of deadly bacterial infections.

“The key to maintaining and building on these advances is constant vigilance and continued access to immunizations is essential to preserving the progress we’ve made against vaccine-preventable conditions and strengthening our ability to address emerging health threats,” stated Soroh.

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