Home » Vaccine Pfizer » The power of vaccines to help protect us throughout life

Susan Rienow

Head of Vaccines, Pfizer UK

Vaccination is one of the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available.1 Taking up the offer of a vaccine when eligible helps us to protect not only ourselves but also the wider community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been a tragedy, but it has also brought out the best in humanity. We’ve seen ingenuity and innovation on a scale rarely seen, with the public and private sector – scientists, medical professionals and politicians – working together in search of a common goal.

The anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout provides an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved over the past 20 months. As healthcare providers and public bodies valiantly tackled the immediate impact of the disease, the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry stepped up too.

The power of immunisation

The pandemic has also, once again, demonstrated the power of immunisation, as one of the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available.2 Its impact can be measured not just in terms of direct health benefits, but in terms of economic ones too: reducing healthcare costs, decreasing lost labour productivity, and contributing to social and economic development.

We must take action and ensure that the vaccines we have access to in the UK today do more to protect us throughout our lives, from childhood through to old age.

The value of vaccination across the life course

A key part of this is understanding the value of vaccinations over the course of life and especially into older age. The UK continues to see high vaccination rates in children, and we should be rightly proud of our successful childhood immunisation programme. However, while last year’s decision to expand eligibility for the winter flu vaccination programme via the NHS was a significant moment, much more could be done to improve the awareness and uptake of vaccines in adults.

Vaccination is critical to the Government’s Autumn and Winter Plan. An increase in vaccine-preventable respiratory diseases, such as influenza and pneumococcal disease, has the potential to add substantially to the pressures already facing the UK’s health service.

Ageing populations also place stress on health systems vaccinating people throughout their lives is a clear example of where a greater emphasis on prevention could significantly improve both our nation’s health, and our nation’s economic prosperity.1 Over 70s are eligible for vaccination against shingles, but by the age of 77 around one in four are still unvaccinated.3 Just one in eight 65-year-olds were immunised against pneumococcal disease in England between April 2019 and March 2020 despite the NHS recommending it as part of the routine immunisation schedule.4 Protecting our most vulnerable from these diseases and keeping them out of hospital, by taking up the offer of a vaccine when eligible, is not just the right thing to do, it will relieve the burden on the NHS too.

Barriers to uptake 

There are still many barriers to uptake, including lack of access, misinformation, complacency and health inequalities. This needs to change.

We must take action and ensure that the vaccines we have access to in the UK today do more to protect us throughout our lives, from childhood through to old age. Much has been learnt from the pandemic about how we manage our health and about the value of vaccination, particularly in helping to protect older adults. Now is the time for the UK to consolidate these learnings so we can more ably manage another winter where there will be acute additional pressure on the health service exacerbated by respiratory diseases.

Given the demonstrable benefit to public health, we all have a duty to be aware of vaccine eligibility and take action to protect ourselves, our communities and our health service.

With a renewed focus on keeping people well, rather than just making them better, and by adopting a mission-led approach, we believe that we can contribute to a more sustainable NHS and build a healthier and more resilient future for Britain.

This content has been developed and paid for by Pfizer UK.
November 2021

[1] ABPI. What are the economic and societal impacts of vaccines? Available at: https://www.abpi.org.uk/new-medicines/vaccines/economic-and-social-impact-of-vaccines/. [Accessed November 2021]
[2] WHO, Vaccine Effectiveness and Protection. Available at: https://www.who.int/ news-room/feature-stories/detail/vaccine-efficacy-effectiveness-and-protection [Accessed November 2021]
[3] PHE. Shingles (quarter 1) vaccine coverage report (adults eligible from April to June 2020 and vaccinated to end of September 2020) in England. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/939915/hpr2320_shngls-vc.pdf. [Accessed November 2021]
[4] PHE. Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV) coverage report, England, April 2019 to March 2020. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/ government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/899458/hpr1320_ ppv-vc.pdf. [Accessed November 2021]

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