“Adult immunisation is key to protect India’s 260 million ageing adults from vaccine preventable diseases”

More than 95% deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) have been reported in adults in India[1]

Hyderabad, 17th November 2022: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” The WHO has also recognised adult immunisation as one of the strategies for healthy ageing in their ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing – Baseline Report -2020’.

The Indian population is ageing rapidly with the number of people above 50 years of age expected to increase to 404 million in 2036 from 260 million in 2020[2], representing 27% of the country’s projected population. Ageing results in reduced immunity and makes older people vulnerable to infectious diseases such as pneumonia, influenza, and shingles and their complications, but these can all be prevented with the help of vaccines[3].

Dr. Jaganmani Sreekanth, HoD, Department of Internal Medicine, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, says, “The success of the COVID-19 vaccination program showed us how vaccines could be used effectively to control infections in adults. This holds true for many other diseases. I believe that people above 50 years of age, who are more at risk, should take all the available vaccines against such infections. The important ones are for influenza, pneumococcal disease, and hepatitis. I would like to add that shingles is one infection which can be very debilitating in old age. I urge all people above age of 50 years to take the vaccine for shingles whenever it becomes available in India.”

In India, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes contribute to more than half of the total disease burden[4]. Adults who suffer from such comorbidities are more prone to VPDs. A report recently suggested that more than 95% deaths due to VPDs in India occur in adults[5]. Not only are these diseases debilitating, but they also tend to complicate the NCDs leading to increased hospitalisation.

Vaccines have saved millions of lives through complete or almost-complete eradication of deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. The concerted effort to make paediatric vaccinations accessible to all children has yielded measurable results. The need of the hour is to prioritise adult immunisation to save more lives and improve quality of life. These measures can also serve to reduce the economic burden of healthcare for individuals, caregivers, and the nation.

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