- Preventing certain respiratory diseases, by broadening the scope and uptake of routine adult vaccination, is pivotal to ensuring people live healthier lives; according to experts who spoke at a Pfizer event today
- Vaccine preventable diseases such as pneumonia and seasonal flu accounted for thousands of hospitalisations annually in Ireland pre-pandemic [i]
Dublin, Thursday October 20th, 2022: New research published today by Pfizer shows an overall positive public attitude to vaccination in Ireland but varying levels of concern for different respiratory diseases. The research was launched as Irish and European experts on immunisation and respiratory disease came together to examine the potential impact that diseases such as COVID-19, seasonal flu, and pneumonia may have on health systems and how routine adult vaccination is a key instrument in protecting lives and reducing the burden on health services.
The event, moderated by Gary Finnegan, Vaccines Today, titled Adult Vaccination and Healthy Ageing – An Opportunity to Build a Strong Future for Ireland, saw a wide group of stakeholders gather to discuss the societal and economic benefits of a healthy ageing population.
The research, conducted by Behaviour & Attitudes for Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, confirms a high uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Ireland, with 94% of respondents confirming they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to date. [ii] Overall attitude towards vaccination is positive, with only 24% stating that they will not get any vaccination (COVID-19, seasonal flu, or pneumococcal) this winter. ii However, only 22% of people surveyed plan to get a pneumococcal vaccination, ii despite the high numbers of pneumonia-related hospitalisations seen in Ireland each year. i
Speaking at today’s event, Dr Ronan Glynn, Partner, Health Sector Lead, EY Ireland, said: “Immunisation is one of the most effective public health interventions, preventing up to 5 million deaths globally each year. [iii] The COVID-19 pandemic saw people engage with immunisation in new and different ways and we have seen fantastic levels of uptake of vaccines against COVID-19 in Ireland. We now have an opportunity to build on this momentum, to encourage and facilitate immunisation against preventable diseases, not alone in children but through adolescence and in priority adult groups including pregnant women, healthcare workers and older adults. By investing in this life-course approach to immunisation, enhancing our immunisation data ‘infostructure’ and leveraging the digital tools at our disposal we can ensure that all people benefit from vaccines appropriate to their needs, leading to a healthier society and reducing the burden on our health services.”
For those who do not plan to get a pneumococcal or seasonal flu vaccination this winter, the main reason cited (39%) by respondents was that they don’t feel they are at risk from either disease. ii However, multiple groups of people are at increased risk from these vaccine preventable diseases particularly the elderly, those with a weakened immune system, and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, or a heart, kidney or liver condition. [iv], [v]
Orlaith Gavan, Country Medical Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland, said: “Vaccination is an integral part of preventative healthcare and as we move into winter, we encourage those who are at an increased risk of catching respiratory diseases such as seasonal flu and pneumonia to speak to their healthcare provider about vaccination. While Ireland’s rate of COVID-19 vaccination has been among the best in the world, we are now seeing some decline in those presenting for their boosters. It is critical that those at higher risk from COVID-19 and other respiratory disease ensure that they are fully vaccinated.”
David Sinclair, Chief Executive, International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK), said: “Unfortunately, adult vaccination remains an underused public health strategy to promote healthy ageing across Europe. We know people are living longer, healthier lives and continuing to contribute economically and socially well past traditional retirement years; so, it is important we do all we can to keep people healthy and out of hospital unnecessarily. COVID-19 has focused minds on disease prevention and has also increased overall positivity towards vaccination, and at ILC-UK we feel strongly that a life-course immunisation approach that capitalises on this positivity is key for any country who wishes to enact a healthy ageing strategy for its population. Vaccination is a cost saving measure that has real world impacts – prevention is ultimately better than cure.”
The research findings also revealed people’s thoughts on ageing and their future health. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ill health is the biggest cause of worry when people think about the next ten years with 54% of respondents aged over 50 saying it is their number one concern. ii When asked what steps they would take to future-proof their health in later life, the top three steps were exercise (82%), vaccination for preventable diseases such as flu and pneumonia (62%), and attend screening appointments (53%). ii
The research also found that respiratory disease is top of mind for the public as we move into winter. When asked about their attitudes to vaccination and respiratory diseases in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half (54%) of respondents said they were more concerned about respiratory diseases, 79% said they want to protect themselves from disease as they age, and 58% said they would be open to receiving vaccinations for other diseases if available. ii
Speaking at the event Dr Patrick D. Mitchell, Senior Lecturer, Consultant Respiratory Physician, Trinity College Dublin and Tallaght University Hospital, said: “While overall positivity towards vaccination is encouraging, we are seeing some vaccine fatigue emerging now, both in relation to COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases. Over the period 2009-2016, well before COVID-19 was a factor, respiratory disease accounted for the highest proportion of inpatient hospitalisations, bed-days used in public hospitals and usage of primary care services compared to other diseases. i Many of the same groups who would have been at risk from COVID-19 are similarly at risk from pneumonia and seasonal flu and we need to do all we can to protect them and the healthcare system as a wholeas we head in to winter.”
Clare Fitzell, Head of Professional Services, Irish Pharmacy Union, added: “Seasonal flu and pneumonia are serious threats to our vulnerable communities and a strain on the health service year on year. Community pharmacists are well placed to offer vaccine protection in their local communities throughout the winter months to help reduce this burden. To date, community pharmacists have administered over 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccinations, and it is wonderful to see in this research that people have found the convenience of that service helpful.”
[i] Irish Thoracic Society. Report – Respiratory Health of the Nation (2018). Available at: https://irishthoracicsociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Respiratory-Health-of-the-Nation-2018-1.pdf Accessed: August 2022
[ii] Behaviours & Attitudes Research – Vaccines and Ageing. August 2022.
[iii] World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/immunization. Accessed: October 2022.
[v] Health Service Executive: Getting the flu vaccine. Available at: https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/flu/getting-the-vaccine/ . Accessed October 2022