If in the last two years the Covid 19 pandemic has overshadowed and slowed down all the vaccinations provided and recommended by the National Vaccine Prevention Plan, at the same time it reminded the entire scientific community, as well as the entire population, the importance of vaccinations in the prevention of infectious diseases.
Especially when adults and the elderly come into play, the viruses and bacteria to be carefully kept away are also others: the flu virus, whose arrival is now upon us, pneumococcus, cause of dangerous bacterial pneumonia and today – under pandemic – even more troubling to manage, and Herpes Zoster (HZ), also known as shingles. Not to mention the recall for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis which are dangerously spreading also in Europe.
To take stock of vaccinations was the meeting organized by HappyAgeing, the Italian Alliance for Active Aging, with the non-conditioning contribution of GSK, where the experts from Emilia Romagna discussed the experience of their region in this area. scope.
“The pandemic has confirmed the importance of vaccinations as the backbone of protecting the health of the population – commented Fausto Francia, former Director of the Prevention Department, Local Health Authority of Bologna. – During the pandemic it was clearly stated that vaccination represents one of the fundamental elements and perhaps the main defense of the health of citizens to contain the spread of the virus. I think this can also be a driving force for other vaccinations that have not achieved the same success, such as pneumococcal or Herpes Zoster vaccinations or basic ones such as tetanus diphtheria and pertussis ”.
“Another merit of the pandemic – continued France – was to convince us that the population is not a uniform mass of people but within it we have niches of fragility which are the ones that are attacked the most in situations like these. The main factor of fragility is age which, together with the coexistence of chronic pathologies, aggravates the picture, but we know that there is also a social, economic and cultural fragility. All these factors have intersected each other and have made us realize that there are broad categories that must be the object of our attention ”.
The Regions, and in general the whole territorial health organization, have a crucial role in spreading and organizing vaccination campaigns and from this point of view Emilia Romagna is a flagship of our country. For some time now, the Region has paid particular attention to immunization policies and during the summer it announced a further step forward in the direction of maximum prevention. Vaccinations are in fact actively offered to the elderly. In the year they turn 65, all citizens receive a letter inviting them to be given the vaccines they are entitled to (such as anti-pneumococcal or Herpes Zoster).
For Herpes Zoster, Emilia-Romagna has expanded the court of those who can have it for free: if up to now this was provided for vulnerable over 50s and for all citizens who turn 65 starting from those born in 1952, now this opportunity is extended free of charge to the 18-49 age group with pathologies that increase the risk of complications in case of infection. An innovative and responsible choice which was presented as an example of best practice during the conference and which it is hoped to be able to spread to other regions as well.
“With Covid, there was a need to reinforce the concept of mass vaccination – explained Christian Cintori, Director of the Vaccination Programs Area, Emilia-Romagna Region – and although we were not used to this type of numbers, the system has held up very well . Both the Italian system and the Emilia Romagna system responded well both in logistical terms and in terms of management of the personnel who provided the service. The need now is to focus attention also on other vaccinations, since in recent years the need for a vaccine-prophylaxis for risk factors has emerged. The vaccine must be part of the chronic patient’s therapeutic path and vaccinations must be tailored to that patient ”.
On the occasion of the meeting Michele Conversano, President of the Technical-Scientific Committee of HappyAgeing, brought to the discussion table a series of proposals developed by the association, and many of these were fully married to the Region which, in many cases, had already started in the previous months of policies that went in a coherent direction.
“Emilia-Romagna is a Region that certainly stands out, in terms of immunizations of the adult-elderly, for a series of reasons. The first concerns the initiatives designed to involve this segment of the population as much as possible: I am thinking of the active call, through a letter, sent to all people who turn 65 to invite them to carry out the vaccines provided for by the National Vaccine Plan – said Michele Conversano. – In terms of innovation, it is important to underline that the Region has started training for doctors to better manage the new, increasingly effective vaccines that science has made available to us. We therefore hope that this reality will become a model for the other Regions and that such an organizational structure can be strengthened especially in those parts of Italy where the achievement of vaccination coverage is still unsatisfactory “.