Greater efforts needed to vaccinate the old, says WHO
On International Day of Older Persons, the World Health Organisation on Friday called for greater efforts in the South-East Asian region to expand COVID-19 vaccination coverage among the older population, saying they remain vulnerable to the virus and at highest risk of severe diseases.
"The older population continues to be highly vulnerable in the ongoing pandemic. Protecting them against the deadly COVID-19 virus should be our priority.
"By vaccinating the elderly population as part of high-risk groups, countries can effectively reduce deaths and hospitalization," Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region said in a statement.
Noting that a few countries are progressing towards a reasonably good coverage of their elderly population, she stressed that concerted and focused efforts to improve coverage of the elderly will be required in all countries of the region to protect these vulnerable populations.
As countries further accelerate COVID-19 vaccination, they must closely look into all issues impacting access to these lifesaving vaccines for this highest risk population and address them, she said.
The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in preventing severe disease and death. Protecting the most at risk population would not only help in reducing the disease burden, but also limit the impact on the health systems, she added.
"Throughout the COVID-19 response, we must continue to protect and enhance the health and well-being of older people, including by ensuring that they have access to essential health services," she said.
On the UN International Day of Older Persons, the WHO called on countries and partners to intensify action to foster healthy ageing.
"Digital equity for all ages" is the theme of this year's UN International Day of Older Persons, which is especially relevant to policy makers in health and health systems.
Key innovations in telemedicine, m-health and e-health initiatives many catalyzed or expanded by the pandemic - must be accessible to all older people. Such innovations should outlast the pandemic, accelerating region-wide efforts to achieve universal health coverage, the statement said.