Life-course vaccination – leave no one behind

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This article is part of our special report Life-course immunisation.

Vaccination is unquestionably one of the most powerful and cost-effective public health measures available.

Despite this, vaccination remain undervalued and underutilised, and there are numerous challenges to optimal uptake of vaccines.

Adopting a life-course approach to vaccination may be a way forward. A life-course approach has been advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a model of healthcare provision that would benefit both individuals and healthcare systems. It involves looking at health as a continuum through life: a dynamic and interconnected process, as opposed to rigid life stages.

Most of us know how important vaccination is for babies and children, but did you know that people can benefit from vaccinations throughout their lives?

Vaccination can protect individuals depending on their Health, Age, Lifestyle or Occupation. For example, vaccination can benefit people with chronic health conditions at increased risk of complication due to infections or older people who may be at higher risk of infectious disease due to a weakened immune system. Ensuring parents are up to date with their vaccination status can protect new-borns until they’re old enough for their own vaccines. People with certain jobs exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases can protect both them and the people they work with. More generally, high-vaccination rates protect communities, stopping diseases being passed on to people who cannot be vaccinated. This is known as “herd immunity”.

Vaccines are one of the most cost/efficient investments for the National Health Systems (NHS). With growing pressures on public health expenses, vaccination policies represent a significant ally to protect population health and improve efficiency of healthcare systems. Healthcare systems should be even more focused on disease prevention through vaccinations, because prevention is a smart investment in terms of individual well-being and the improved efficiency of healthcare systems.

Taking a whole-society, life-course approach to vaccination may enable realisation of the full potential of vaccination and address some of the most significant threats to its success, over time.

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