It’s hard enough to get older adults to get routine vaccines but during a global pandemic, it’s nearly impossible. That’s why GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has launched a disease awareness campaign — called “Brought to You By Vaccines” — to help those ages 50 and older identify gaps in their own immunity against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Despite the high rates of vaccination among children in the US, with nearly 93 percent of kids ages 1.5 to three having received multiple doses of the polio vaccine in 2017, vaccine awareness in older adults remains low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 50 percent of US adults have received all of the recommended vaccines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue with at-risk age groups being even more reluctant to visit the doctor. Data from IQVIA seems to support this claim, with physicians’ offices and other healthcare centers ordering 62 percent fewer adult vaccines between April and May of 2020, compared to the same time period in 2019.
“There has been a significant drop in routine healthcare visits during the stay-at-home measures, leading to a dangerous decline in immunizations among adults. We are doing everything we can to help prevent outbreaks of other diseases that would add to the already tragic public health crisis of the pandemic,” said Judy Stewart, senior vice president, head of US Vaccines at GSK, in a press release. “We must protect against other infectious diseases — ones we can prevent with existing, recommended vaccines.”
GSK’s Brought to You By Vaccines disease awareness video shows older adults enjoying a range of activities, from bodyboarding and hiking to spending time with friends, family and grandchildren. The tagline, “Brought to you by vaccines: moments worth protecting,” highlights the importance of routine vaccination and implies that individuals might not be around to enjoy their favourite activities if it weren’t for the protection against deadly infectious diseases.
While most of the links on the Brought to You By Vaccines website are directed to CDC pages on vaccine-preventable diseases, the shingles and whooping cough (pertussis) links lead to GSK-run disease awareness sites. Shingrix and Boostrix are big sellers for GSK bringing in £1.8 billion and £584 million in 2019, respectively. As of July 1, Shingrix’s major competitor (Merck’s Zostavax) stopped being sold in the US.
While weaker immune systems help explain why adults over the age of 50 are more susceptible to some infections, the CDC stresses that immunity conferred by childhood vaccines wanes over time requiring some to get boosters later in life. GSK’s campaign highlights eight vaccine-preventable diseases — including influenza, shingles and pneumonia — and urges adults to talk to their doctor about gaps in their immunization history.