The burden of vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) is threatening healthcare systems not only by an increasing number of ageing people (50 years and older) but also through the age-related decline of the immune system (1, 2). As a preventive strategy, vaccination has been reported to be effective in limiting the severity, reducing morbidity, and mortality of infections in ageing population (3-5).
However, vaccines are underutilized in ageing population characterized by delayed policy implementation and low vaccine uptakes. This issue is partly demonstrated by less than two third of European countries having policies for pneumococcal vaccine and most countries having no vaccination policies against herpes zoster (6).
Therefore, countries need to strengthen their immunization programs for ageing population by focusing on both decision-making and implementation aspects.
It is known that one of the required elements for both processes is evidence, including international literature and country-specific evidence (7). However, questions are raised on which evidence will be needed and what types of studies should be conducted to support decision-makers in introducing vaccines for ageing adults. In many countries, there is no transparent guidance that presents these methodological requirements (7).
Acknowledging those gaps, Work package 3 (WP3) in the VITAL project has constructed a Country score tool that serves as a readiness assessment to first, identify the gaps in healthcare systems concerning ageing adult immunization programs; and second, to identify methods for future research enabling decision-making and implementation. The tool was developed in two phases.
In phase 1, a modified Delphi process was used. This method concerns a group consensus strategy that systematically uses a literature review, opinions of the research team and the judgment of experts within the research field to reach agreement (8, 9). The Delphi panel included researchers, supra-national and national decision-makers of immunization programs recruited from five countries. The consensus was predefined at the agreement rate of 70%.
Phase 2 involved pilot testing in four countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, and Serbia to test the comprehensiveness, relevance, acceptability, and feasibility of the tool via an online survey that included 5-scale Likert questions. As a result, the literature review identified 16 tools and frameworks that formed the first version of our tool with 14 items.
After the Delphi study, the consensus was achieved on the tool with 17 items divided into decision-making and implementation parts. The readiness of countries with regard to decision-making is assessed by the availability of sufficient infrastructure, fully functioning supportive groups and relevant strategies.
Additionally, items in the implementation part of the tool further assess how countries have proceeded with vaccine recommendations and identify how the current system can facilitate future vaccine adoption for ageing populations. The tool was rated as comprehensive (75%), relevant (100%), acceptable (75%), and feasible (88%) by participants in the pilot testing.
The Country Score Tool was presented at ISPOR Europe 2022 conference. The abstract and poster of this work can be found here: ISPOR – Country Score Tool for Readiness Assessment and Evidence Generation of Immunization Programs in Ageing Adults in Europe
The corresponding manuscript has been submitted to a peer-review journal. We expect to share the publication soon.
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