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Increasing vaccination uptake is a priority that must not be overlooked

Darius Hughes
Head of Vaccines, Pfizer UK

15 October 2020

At this moment in time we face an unprecedented challenge to the nation’s health. With winter flu season almost upon us, and a health system that is pulling out all the stops to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic whilst continuing to deliver the care our nation needs, the challenge this year is perhaps more critical than ever before.

 

The health and wealth of our nation depends on getting the response to this right. While the Government has taken important steps to build resilience this winter, making more people eligible for the flu vaccination programme for example,1 more can be done to protect our nation from other preventable diseases and ease the burden on the NHS.

Prevention is key. Currently, 60% of healthcare funding is spent on cure and rehabilitation, versus only 5% on prevention.2 Now is the time to rebalance and recognise that greater investment in keeping people well will release significant socio-economic benefits,3,4  – both saving lives and money.5

Vaccination should be at the core of a UK prevention strategy. Coronavirus has brought to the fore the importance of vaccines in preventing the spread of infectious disease, but we’re failing to realise the full benefits of the range of vaccines already available to us – and they’re not just for children. Adult vaccination – whether for respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and flu or diseases such as shingles – is a tried and trusted way to help protect our most vulnerable.6

Last year in England, only one in eight (12.9%) 65-year olds were immunised against pneumococcal disease.7 Similarly, in other ‘at risk’ groups, for patients aged between 2 – 65 years uptake was as low as one in ten for those with illnesses such as chronic liver disease.6 Yet we know that protecting adults against pneumococcal disease saves lives.8 The World Health Organization has this winter restated the importance of vaccinating adults against respiratory diseases such as pneumococcal infections,9 and it is critical that we follow suit to raise awareness of the value that vaccines can deliver for people, the NHS and the economy.   

 

With winter flu season almost upon us the challenge this year is perhaps more critical than ever before."

Making the most of today’s vaccines is an opportunity too important to miss. The public is more switched on to what it means to be healthy than ever before and now we must work together to make sure all corners of our community can access the vaccines they need.

Pfizer’s recently published ‘VacciNation’ paper highlights some of the ideas we have developed to help us achieve this. We are calling for a new pan-industry national leadership forum for vaccines to be created – potentially led by the new National Institute for Health Protection – to drive action on vaccination and provide a coordinated and strategic approach to maximise the gains of vaccine innovation.

In addition, there are other simple, clear steps we could be taking now, like setting clear targets for adult vaccination to put them on a par with childhood vaccination. Increased use of alternative providers, such as community pharmacy, could also lighten the load elsewhere in the system, improve access and address unintended barriers – making it easier to target hard-to-reach socio-economic or cultural groups. And more broadly, we could implement lessons learnt from COVID-19 and upgrade our call and recall system, using innovative technology and data and more effective communications to empower individuals to take greater ownership of their health.

Moreover, we all have a role to play in tackling misinformation and raising awareness. A targeted information campaign – aimed at the public and healthcare professionals – could remind people of the benefits of, and build confidence in, adult vaccinations.

Vaccination should be central to creating a more resilient Britain. While a public better protected from disease – regardless of age – is within our reach, we will only make the most of today’s vaccines if we work together to overcome existing barriers and level up access. Here at Pfizer, we stand ready and willing to play our part.

 

A vision for protecting the health, wealth and resilience of the UK by unlocking the personal and societal value of vaccines at every stage of life.

References

  1. DHSC. Press Release. Most comprehensive flu programme in UK history will be rolled out this winter. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/most-comprehensive-flu-programme-in-u.... [Last accessed October 2020]
  2. DHSC. Prevention is better than cure: Our vision to help you live well for longer. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa.... [Last accessed October 2020]
  3. DHSC. Annual report and accounts 2018-19. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa.... [Last accessed October 2020]
  4. DHSC. Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2007. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130105101845/http://www.dh.g...@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_086193.pdf [Last accessed October 2020]
  5. Quilici S, Smith R, et al. Role of vaccination in economic growth. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC4802686/ [Last accessed October 2020]
  6.  Royal Society for Public Health. Moving the needle. Available at: https://www.rsph.org.uk/static/uploaded/3b82db00-a7ef-494c-85451e78ce18a... [Last accessed October 2020]
  7. Public Health England. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV) coverage report, England, April 2019 to March 2020. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploa.... [Last accessed October 2020]
  8. NHS Pneumococcal vaccine overview. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pneumococcal-vaccination/ [Last accessed October 2020] 
  9. World Health Organisation. Infection prevention and control guidance for long term care facilities in the context of COVID-19. Available at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/WHO-2019-nCoV-IPC-long-term-care... [Last accessed October 2020]
PP-PFE-GBR-3061 / Oct 2020