Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Adult immunisation: Myth vs reality

New Delhi: While vaccinations remain the most effective prevention strategy to maintain immunity for a prolonged period, adult immunisation remains neglected.

Adult immunisation myths prevail as a result of inadequate awareness, lack of a established body of official recommendations and vaccine hesitancy, which contribute to reduced vaccine coverage across India. For instance, there are rising incidences of typhoid cases in India, despite the availability of vaccines and being universally recommended. This suggests adults need to be aware of immunisation as a preventive solution to effectively make use of it.

The first-ever adult immunisation recommendations by the Association of Physicians of India highlights the clear need for adult immunisation in India.

Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, Former Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said, “There is potential to increase adult immunisation coverage in India. To develop these evidence-based recommendations, we convened a panel of healthcare experts across speciality practices, ranging from Cardiology, to Pulmonology, Gynaecology to Nephrology. The result is a comprehensive body of knowledge outlining best practices and reliable information on adult immunisation in India. Through these recommendations, we hope to drive a paradigm shift to ensure adult vaccinations are increasingly suggested and adopted.”

While vaccinations prevent infectious diseases, prolong and improve quality of life –  emphasis on adult immunisation is low. The recommendations by the API will help increase the awareness and equip healthcare practitioners with evidence-based information to guide vaccine recommendation and administration.

It is important to stay informed and clear up common misconceptions around vaccines, so you can make the most of your immunisation conversation with your doctor!

Here are five common vaccine myths, and the facts to know to address them. Inputs from Abbott India.

Myth 1: Vaccines are for children

Fact: Vaccinations are recommended across various stages of life. As protective effects of childhood vaccines wean off over time, it is vital to remain up to date on booster shots. Rapid globalisation and increased frequency of international travel have raised the likelihood of adults contracting vaccine-preventable diseases, including influenza, Hepatitis A and B and more. These can lead to higher disease burden in adults, exacerbate comorbidities and are associated with higher rates of mortality in adults.

There are vaccines you should take as an adult even if you didn’t take them as a child, like the Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (DPT) vaccine, which is a booster shot recommended once every ten years.

Myth 2: Not all adults need vaccines

Fact: Vaccinations are an important public health strategy across the population, including healthy adults, and many vaccines are universally recommended. These include vaccines for influenza, typhoid and Hepatitis A and B, which have resulted in seasonal epidemics across India.

There is also an increased need for certain vaccines, such as the Hepatitis B one, especially among at-risk populations, which include people with comorbidities, healthcare providers, geriatrics and pregnant women.

Myth 3: Vaccines cause unnecessary hassle and make me sick.

Fact: Vaccinations are beneficial and can help avoid disease burden and negative complications in the long run, thus leading to better health outcomes so you can live a fuller, hassle-free life. Moreover, vaccines don’t cause illness but short-lived side effects, including low-grade fever, aches or soreness, which are nothing to worry about — in fact, it is the result of the body building an immune response to the vaccine.

Myth 4: It’s better to get the flu naturally instead of taking a vaccine, which will weaken my immune system.

Fact: Being exposed to the flu naturally means exposing yourself to a potentially serious disease with moderate to severe symptoms including fever, joint pain and cough among others. This can prompt worrying complications or even progress to pneumonia, respiratory failure or even morbidity, particularly for those at high-risk.Vaccination is a far safer option to protect yourself against preventable diseases and in fact, strengthens your immune system.

Myth 5: I took the influenza vaccine last year, so I don’t need it again

Fact: Influenza viruses are constantly changing and so, WHO identifies and provides latest strain recommendations annually. Getting vaccinated every year is thus important to ensure optimal, sustained protection against rapidly adapting influenza viruses. This is vital especially considering in India where we have had pandemic outbreaks of influenza in various states, including Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, in 2012, 2015 and 2017. Get your flu shot annually to keep yourself protected.

What next: Get your vaccine checklist in place. Consult your doctor for more myth-busting, in-depth information so you can set a vaccination schedule in place and keep your health in check!

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