Getting vaccines throughout life most cost-effective way to protect people against infectious diseases: Report

South-east Asia lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to getting a person immunised through the course of his life. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Vaccination at every stage of life after childhood remains one of the most cost-effective measures to protect against infectious diseases, a study has found.

The body's immune function is weakened and has an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases such as the flu and pneumonia as one ages. And this can potentially turn into other health complications.

Despite vaccines being highly effective in disease prevention, South-east Asia lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to getting a person immunised through the course of his life - a process otherwise known as life-course immunisation.

The region falls significantly short of the 75 per cent immunisation target set by the World Health Organisation, said the report, published on Tuesday (June 29). It is titled The Decade Of Healthy Ageing In Asean: Role Of Life-Course Immunisation.

For instance, Singapore's influenza vaccination rate stands at only 14 per cent, compared with 75 per cent in Britain and 83 per cent in South Korea.

The report was done by the EU-Asean Business Council, accounting firm KPMG in Singapore, and pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, with the support of the Western Pacific Pharmaceutical Forum (WPPF).

Mr John Jackson, president of the WPPF, said: "Although further implementing life-course immunisation programmes will be a costly and logistically complex endeavour, the alternative will be far more expensive... time is running out, and swift, decisive action to address the issues that threaten to undermine having a healthy, ageing population is imperative."

Pandemics like Covid-19 have proven that the elderly are more likely to develop serious complications, causing them to be a vulnerable group that needs to be protected. With the shift of Asean's demographics towards an ageing population, the potential economic burden on future generations would increase.

The report provided several recommendations with input from experts across the region.

These include:

- Recognising the importance of and dedicating resources to life-course immunisation.

- Improving public access to vaccination points so that vaccination is made convenient.

- Increasing the level of public education on the efficacy and safety of vaccines - especially among the elderly.

- Getting support from the private sector by including annual vaccination fees in employee benefit programmes; and getting health insurers to develop insurance products that help cover vaccination costs.

Mr Chris Humphrey, executive director of the EU-Asean Business Council, said: "While we are living longer, we are not necessarily living healthier... South-east Asia needs to start planning now to ensure that we take the right policy action - including preventative care."

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