After a successful kick-off meeting in November 2022, the AIB had its first technical meeting entitled: Assessing the health burden of vaccine-preventable infections in European Adults: challenges and opportunities.
The two-day AIB meeting with 50 participants took place in April 2023 at the University of Antwerp and was a unique gathering of experts in research on the health burden of vaccine-preventable infections (VPIs).
The objectives of the technical meeting set by the Adult Immunization Board were:
- To discuss the methodology and challenges in calculating the health burden of adult VPIs (focus on Europe)
- To provide an overview of current vaccine-preventable infections (VPIs) in the adult population (≥ 18 years of age)
- To understand how health burden estimates of adult VPIs shape national vaccination policies and practices and inform public health priorities
- To evaluate current VPIs health burden evidence to provide a convincing case for strengthening adult vaccination in Europe
The AIB meeting effectively highlighted the challenges and opportunities in assessing the health burden of vaccine-preventable infections in European adults. The presentations and discussions emphasized the complexity of health burden of diseases and the importance of using common summary measures. (e.g., the disability-adjusted life year – DALY) of population health to assess and rank the impact of different diseases/infections. It was noted that the absence or low impact of some vaccine-preventable diseases in adults is related to the continued high vaccination coverage.
The need for transparency in data collection and methods used, especially when comparing outcomes, was acknowledged. The discussions also covered the significance of data management and knowledge, along with specific challenges related to infectious diseases (e.g., transmission route) and pathogens (e.g. asymptomatic infections).
Several EU projects and research groups involved in the calculation and use Burden of infectious disease presented their work and insights at the meeting (e.g., WHO, European Burden of Disease Network, BCode study, IMI-project: VITAL (vaccinating elderly for healthy ageing). In addition to European project also the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study group of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) gave its insides from 30 years of Burden of Disease research with a focus on infectious diseases and two researchers from Australia (BVPF project) and Canada (ONBOIDS) presented their work and give their reflections.
There are currently more than 20 adult vaccines (≥ 18 years of age) that are being used in Europe, including routine vaccines, missed child/adolescence vaccines, personal risk-based vaccines, travel-based vaccines and occupational-based vaccines. This underscores the importance to having accurate information on the health burden of VPIs in adults for several reasons:
- To understand the need and justification for consolidating existing and proposing new adult vaccination programs.
- To measure the impact of adult vaccination programs on individual and population health, health systems, economic and social factors.
- To collate the rationale to improve prevention and vaccination strategies for adult diseases (e.g., update or revise immunization schedules, implement targeted delivery strategies, etc.).
- To support health policy recommendations and priorities on regional as well as European level.
Challenges and opportunities were presented for different VPI in different adult groups including young adults (HPV), older adults (RSV, Herpes, Influenza), immunocompromised individuals and travelers.
The last session of the technical meeting highlighted the need to translate infectious disease burden knowledge from research into usable and actionable data – accessible and understandable for all potential users e.g. National immunization technical advisory groups (NITAGs) and other policy makers). It was pointed out that different EU countries use the same disease burden data but may arrive at very different conclusions and implementations, depending on their specific country/region aim or focus. The meeting included presentations and discussions from different EU NITAGs about different examples of adult vaccines.
The AIB meeting successfully shed light on the challenges and opportunities associated with evaluating the health burden of vaccine-preventable infections in European adults. Immunization of adults—not just children—is a crucial part of countries’/regions’ efforts to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable infections and diseases.
A meeting report is currently being prepared and is planned to be submitted in a peer reviewed journal in the second half of 2023.
All the meeting materials (agenda, presentations, background document and conclusions slides) are now available online on the AIB website: https://www.adultimmunizationboard.org/meetings/technical-meeting-april-2023/
The next meeting of the adult immunization board will be a country meeting entitled: Adult Immunization in Italy: lessons learnt and the way forward in December 2023.
By Dr Jade Pattyn, post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination (CEV) at the University of Antwerp. Since September 2022, she is the project manager of the Adult Immunization Board, a platform to provide multidisciplinary guidelines for the implementation and optimization of adult immunization in Europe. The AIB secretariat is a joined collaboration between the University of Antwerp (led by Prof Van Damme) and the University of Florence (led by Prof Bonanni).