Marking World Immunisation week, Dr Hemlata Arora, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Head, Adult Immunisation Unit, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital suggests that there will be more trust for a nationwide adult immunisation campaign once healthcare policymakers prepare a universal adult vaccine schedule
Adulthood is often misunderstood by many as a sigh of invincibility. Most adults consider themselves healthy and fail to acknowledge the preventive interventions until they are sick and bedridden. Some important preventive measures—vital to avoid chronic health problems and premature mortality include; regular health check-up and fitness evaluation, dietary and nutrition counselling and the most underestimated—adult immunisation.
Most adults are immunised as children and achieve immunity that lasts through their early adulthood. However, the immunity wanes with growing age and needs to be reinstated with booster doses. The recent outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and pertussis across the globe suggest the urgent need of booster immunisation for adult population. Adults are also susceptible to diseases such as chicken pox, shingles and typhoid which 15 to 20 years ago, weren’t enlisted in the immunisation programme. As a result, many parts of the country are witnessing a rise in these infections in older population.
There is little doubt that the burden on healthcare services and even economy will be substantially reduced by implementing adult vaccination programme. Not to mention, it will improve the overall health of our productive population.
There is an urgent need of a nationwide adult immunisation campaign, starting with senior citizens. As the awareness grows amongst individuals, institutions and private or public sector companies, they can accept vaccinations as an annual fitness evaluation tool. Medical insurance companies can offer lower premiums to individuals with up-to-date vaccination schedule. Most importantly, government can offer subsidies in education, employment and taxes for fully immunised adults.
The trust in these recommendations will be bolstered once the healthcare policymakers prepare a universal adult vaccine schedule, based on current clinical evidence. Many of these vaccines may be expensive at present. But greater use of vaccines for HPV, pneumococcal and Zoster may encourage the vaccine makers to lower the prices and motivate policymakers to implement price-capping. The government can certify skilled and veteran doctors as adult immunisation providers to create a transparent system.
Vaccines are a result of multi-decade-long research and development into the diseases and can substantially reduce the morbidity and mortality. It’s time we start using them universally for our personal and collective benefit.