“Vaccination and the at-risk population of adults with heart and lung conditions” Expert Meeting, Stockholm, Sweden

“Vaccination and the at-risk population of adults with heart and lung conditions” was a recent IFA hosted meeting (11-12 October) in Sweden that brought together for the first time experts in the fields of public health, heart and lung conditions, ageing, immunization and bioethics.

An important take away message is that people with heart and lung disease are at significantly greater risk of death and disability from the vaccine preventable diseases of influenza, pneumonia and shingles.

Poor awareness and access to appropriate adult vaccines is a central issue for all at-risk populations whose health and well being will be forever comprised from common infectious diseases.  Urgent attention is needed to emphasize the necessary enabling factors for increasing the priority of adult vaccination within organizations supporting people with heart and lung conditions.

Key Messages

  1. Barriers to adult vaccination have far-reaching effects

Without a national immunization plan (NIP) that demonstrates the value and importance of this critical public health intervention there is significant risks of inequity within and across populations.  Without a cohesive plan across regions more tailored recommendations for at-risk groups are doomed to fail.

  1. There is a lack of targeted information for patients regarding vaccination

A one-size-fits-all approach in Sweden means that all citizens received general information about vaccination. Greater attention is needed to tailor messages for those groups that are at highest-risk. These messages need to include the long-term impact on function and lifestyle.

  1. Always keep the patient in mind

The principle of patient-centered care was underscored as vital to increasing vaccination uptake and, when applied to vaccination, involves acknowledging the knowledge gaps, misconceptions, and concerns of individual patients with regard to vaccines, and working with patients to address each apprehension.

  1. Straightforward communication is the key

Both the benefits and risks of vaccination need to be shared in order to establish a trusting relationship between experts and the public, and between health care professionals and patients.

  1. Collaboration across multiple stakeholders strengthens buy-in and investment

Increasing vaccination awareness and uptake requires interdisciplinary collaboration to understand where knowledge gaps exist and explore how those gaps translate into vaccine apathy.  Multi-stakeholder commitment could show a clearer picture of the complexities of vaccination culture.

Next Steps

Experts at the “Vaccination and the at-risk population of adults with heart and lung conditions” meeting indicated the need to go beyond words to formulate actions to improve knowledge of and access to vaccination information and vaccines.  These actions will substantiate the key messages and advance the investment of patient organizations in improving vaccination uptake rates.

The formulation of guiding principles to increase patient engagement on vaccination was unique to disease-specific patient groups, as the needs and concerns of these groups can differ significantly.  There is also an urgent requirement for patient groups to come together with diverse stakeholders to discuss their needs regarding vaccination.

Several connections were made between the IFA and organizations including the Swedish Heart and Lung Association and the European Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients’ Association to collaborate on future work to educate patients in their organizations on the importance of vaccination, including a possibility to integrate vaccination into health coach training and delivery at the Swedish Heart and Lung Association.

For more information on this and future meetings, please contact Ms Jessica Rochman-Fowler at jrochman-fowler@ifa-fiv.org.