Are the flu and pneumococcal vaccines effective in reducing the burden of respiratory infections and antimicrobial use in elderly populations? Looking to answer this question, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – the country’s apex body for the formulation, coordination, and promotion of biomedical research — has now invited Expression of Interest from research institutions to conduct studies to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines for flu and pneumonia in reducing infections and subsequent antimicrobial use in susceptible population.
(For top health news of the day, subscribe to our newsletter Health Matters)
The impact of vaccinating the adults against vaccine-preventable diseases in terms of health, social and economic benefits is being increasingly recognised, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The population over 50 years is expected to represent 27% of the projected population in India in 2036 out of which 13% will be over 60 years.
Elderly people suffer from dual medical problems, i.e., both communicable as well as non-communicable diseases. A decline in immunity with age leads to increased risk of infections in the elderly such as pneumococcal infection, influenza, tetanus, and herpes zoster, the ICMR said.
The Council has noted that Principal Investigator must submit a comprehensive research proposal.
“The study will be a prospective randomised controlled study wherein the vaccines in question will be given to the elderly adults from both rural and urban areas across different States of India,” it said.
The details of the sampling design, inclusion and exclusion criteria, process of data collection and analysis, follow-up plan and duration must be clearly mentioned in the proposal. The age group and region targeted should be mentioned along with the details of the vaccines to be used in control, the ICMR said.
The Council notes that upper respiratory tract infections are among the major causes of morbidity and mortality among the elderly and are responsible for a large number of deaths and hospitalisations.
“Influenza immunisation is associated with a decrease in antibiotic use, and pneumococcal vaccines reduce the carriage and transmission of antimicrobial-resistant strains of pneumococcus,” it said adding that there are several barriers to adult immunisation, even when available, including lower vaccine confidence, cost, lack of awareness and limited access to vaccines.
There is a national immunisation schedule for the elderly population in India till date.
Adult vaccination was highly encouraged during the pandemic and this provides an opportunity to extend the benefit of available vaccines and vaccination to adults, elderly and the at-risk populations.