KUALA LUMPUR: Children are usually at the receiving end of needles when it comes to receiving vaccinations – but experts are saying that adults, too, need to be inoculated against a range of diseases, in particular, influenza.
Commonly misunderstood as a “harmless flu” or runny nose, influenza can actually have a dire impact on adults who belong to high-risk groups – mostly those who suffer from diabetes, hypertension, TB or other diseases.
Head of the Surveillance Sector under the Health Ministry Disease Control Division, Dr. Wan Noraini Wan Mohamed Noor, said that although influenza is not generally a fatal disease, its contraction by high-risk adults can cause other underlying diseases to worsen.
“Influenza will exaggerate underlying medical conditions to the point that it may cause death. It is not a direct cause of death, but it makes diseases like diabetes even worse, especially for the old,” she said.
Speaking during a media dialogue session on adult vaccination awareness, organised by the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy (MSIDC), Dr. Wan Noraini stressed that annual vaccination among adults is needed, as the influenza virus changes its form frequently.
MSIDC president, Professor Dr. Zamberi Sekawi, said it is a matter of mindset and awareness that prevents the public from getting adult vaccinations.
“Over the years, we have become used to focusing on vaccination as a way to protect our children’s health. Yet as people grow older, lifestyles change and one’s immune system tends to weaken.
“Furthermore, bacteria and viruses can evolve. While Malaysians are not alone in our view of adult vaccination, the use of influenza vaccination in Malaysia is low,” he said.
Also speaking at the event was Head and Senior Consultant Physician of Infectious Diseases at Hospital Sungai Buloh, Datuk Dr. Christopher Lee Kwok Choong, who said high-risk adults also include the elderly, people with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart problems, and caregivers.
During the dialogue, Senior Consultant of Respiratory at the Institute of Respiratory Medicine, Professor Datuk Dr. Abdul Razak Mutallif, said that vaccination is the key practicable strategy to curb infectious and vaccine-preventable diseases like influenza.
He also added that the protection rate of influenza vaccination varies between 60 and 70 per cent.
This article was originally published in New Straits Times on November 4, 2016.