Recently, the EU European Union (European Union)-sponsored Vaccines and InfecTious diseases in the Ageing popuLation (VITAL) project was launched. VITAL will address - in a public-private consortium - the challenges of infections in the elderly and the potential of infection prevention by vaccination.

Within the VITAL project, which will run from 2019-2023, University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht will be the managing entity and scientific lead. The € 12.4 million project is sponsored by the European Union's Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) with a grant of € 5.5 million which will be matched by grants in a total of € 6.9 million from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries Associations (EFPIA). The consortium academic leader is Debbie van Baarle, professor of Immunology of Vaccinations at UMC Utrecht and Head of the Department of Immune Mechanisms at the RIVM Centre for Immunology of Infectious Diseases and Vaccines.

Multidisciplinary approach

Through a multidisciplinary public-private approach, VITAL will generate health, economic and societal benefits by mapping the disease burden of infectious diseases to be prevented by vaccines, Investigate immunity to infections and vaccinations in the aging population, calculate the clinical and economic consequences of possible vaccination strategies in different age and risk groups, and develop teaching tools for stakeholders.

This is in line with recent recommendations from the European Council to strengthen cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases by working on cross-border vaccination programs and develop research and development studies for better understanding the benefit of life-long vaccination impact. 

The burden of infectious diseases

Due to demographic developments, the population of the elderly increases in size every year. Older people are more vulnerable to infectious diseases because their immune system becomes weaker with increasing age. As a consequence, an increasing burden of infections in the elderly is observed. Avoiding such infections by vaccination should delay, reduce, or avoid the exposure to institutionalized health care. In order to achieve optimal vaccination strategies for elderly or better protect elderly against infectious diseases, better insights are needed on how the overall process of ageing, exposure to infection, and immune response to vaccination, is developing and evolving.

Public-private Partnership

The partners in the international VITAL project include 7 academic research groups, 7 public health institutes, 3 private consultancy partners and 7 pharmaceutical industries with long-standing experience in epidemiology, health economy, clinical trials, immunology and public health.