Following the emergence and rapid spread of coronavirus, yellow fever, Ebola, and Lassa fever among other infectious diseases, medical experts have advocated improved adult vaccination campaigns in Nigeria.
This is as they scored childhood vaccination efforts fair, calling on relevant authorities to invest more in vaccinations as tested means of mitigating what they described as the dangerous impacts of infectious diseases globally.
These experts, including a professor and consultant physician at the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Ikeja, Olufunke Adeyeye, and the chief consultant and head of geriatrics unit at the National Hospital, Abuja, Ogugua Osi-Ogbu, among others, gave the advice at an adult vaccination media roundtable which was recently organised by an American multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation and vaccine makers, Pfizer Incorporation.
They said substantial improvements in adult vaccination are needed to reduce the health consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Importance of vaccines
Relevant statistics have shown that childhood vaccines save an estimated between two and three million lives worldwide every year. However, some 20 million children are estimated to miss out on life-saving vaccines annually, and that these children are mostly found in Africa.
Therefore, child inoculation is perceived to be a top priority as vaccines are found to be the most cost-effective approach for reducing childhood disease burden.
But while adults have less chance of getting infection, the emergence and rapid spread of such infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, COVID-19, among others, have shown that the adult population now has increased risks of getting communicable diseases owing to urbanisation, globalisation, and increasing international travel.
The experts, who emphasised the importance of adult vaccination as well as the challenges and gaps identified in it, noted that adults have a decreased immunological response when they are exposed to infections.
Speaking at the virtual media roundtable, Mrs Adeyeye said; “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 a significantly higher risk of acquiring pneumococcal infections.”
She added that immunisation in Nigeria, so far, has been primarily directed towards infants and children, but that “vaccination is as important for adults as it is for children”.
On her part, Mrs Osi-Ogbu, said; “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.”
The experts describe vaccine preventable diseases as infectious diseases caused by viruses or bacteria that can be prevented with vaccines.
The chief consultant added; “Vaccines are not just for kids; adults need vaccines too. Even if fully vaccinated as a child, adults may be at risk for other diseases due to age, job, lifestyle, travel, or a health condition.
“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”. This protects 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.”
Immunisation access key – Pfizer Director
Meanwhile, the medical director for sub-saharan Africa of Pfizer Incorporation, Kodjo Soroh, has said the company has a long history in vaccine research and development.
He said through the development of innovative delivery systems and technologies, Pfizer has created 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 immunisations is essential to preserving the progress we’ve made against vaccine-preventable conditions and strengthening our ability to address emerging health threats,” Mr Soroh said.
He added that the company applies science and her global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives.
“We strive to set the standard for quality, safety, and value in the discovery, development, and manufacture of health care products, including innovative medicines and vaccines. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments, and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time,” he added.
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