Report 12 September 2019

Implementing a Life-Course Approach to Immunization


Immunization across the life course is a cost-effective way to improve health, support health system sustainability and promote economic prosperity.

At a global level, effective vaccination may help mitigate health risks such as infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which have a significant impact on health and wellbeing as well as on the global economy.

As the global population continues to age, prevention of disease becomes more important for easing pressure on health systems and ensuring their sustainability. Similarly, as retirement age increases and people work to older age, immunization across the life course is becoming more relevant to workforce productivity.

What do we mean by a life-course approach to immunization?

Based on our research we developed a definition of the life-course approach to immunization to support a clearer, shared understanding of the concept:
‘The life-course approach to immunization recognizes the role of immunization as a strategy to prevent disease and maximize health over one’s entire life, regardless of an individual’s age. A life-course approach requires that immunization schedules and access to vaccination respond to an individual’s stage in life, their lifestyle and specific vulnerabilities/risks to infectious disease that they may face.’

The benefits of immunization across the life course are beginning to be recognized at a global level, but progress within countries has been slow.

In 2010, the global health community declared a ‘Decade of Vaccines’ and experts developed the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011–2020 (GVAP), which includes a focus on establishing a life-course approach to immunization. The WHO is continuing to develop and invest in the importance of a life-course approach to health, recently establishing a ‘Universal Health Coverage and the Life Course’ division and highlighting the benefits of a life-course approach in its 13th General Programme of Work. Most countries, however, have not yet implemented a life course approach to immunization,  and many of the goals set out in the GVAP will not be achieved by 2020.

Furthermore, recent years have seen a rise in vaccine hesitancy, leading to a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.


Report pdf | 10.59MB
Implementing a Life-Course Approach to Immunization - Executive summary pdf | 1.45MB
Implementing a Life-Course Approach to Immunization - Infographic pdf | 51KB