The Association of Physicians of India – Ipsos survey shows that doctors surveyed believe formal guidelines will help increase adoption of adult immunisation

More than 90% of doctors state that a lack of adult immunisation guidelines results in a lack of interest and adoption of vaccination
The primary reason for 83% of ageing adults to get vaccinated is a doctor’s recommendation
Doctors recommend adult vaccination to only 16% of their patients aged 50+ years

Hyderabad, 28th August: A recently conducted survey by The Association of Physicians in India (API) and Ipsos, in 16 cities among adults aged 50 years and older, their caregivers and doctors has yielded compelling insights into why there is low adoption of adult immunisation in India. The survey shows that although 71% of adults aged ≥50 years are aware of adult vaccination, only 16% have taken any adult vaccines. Patients and doctors have provided significantly different reasons for low adoption.

A majority of doctors surveyed (90%) state that a lack of formal guidelines results in a lack of interest and adoption of vaccination by patients. Doctors also hesitate to discuss adult vaccination with their patients because they have limitations of time, and they also feel patients are less receptive to vaccination recommendations due to cost as well as prioritisation of treatment over prevention. Patients say that since they do not receive a firm recommendation from their doctors, they have not proactively taken adult vaccination. Many adults aged ≥50 (69%) and their caregivers (76%) do not ask doctors about adult vaccination because they believe that if they needed it, their doctors would recommend it. When asked about how to improve adult vaccination uptake, adult respondents (55%) and their caregivers (48%) said that measures such as those implemented for COVID-19 vaccination awareness can increase the adoption of adult vaccination.

In Hyderabad, 53% of adults aged ≥50 are aware of adult vaccination, but only 4% of adults have taken any adult vaccines. A significant number of adults aged ≥50 (81%) would trust their doctor’s word if advised to get vaccinated. Only 7% of ageing adults claim that doctors have recommended adult vaccination to them. Overall, in the South zone, doctors have recommended adult vaccination to lesser adults (10%) compared to the national average (16%).

Dr. Bipin Kumar Sethi, The Association of Physicians of India said, “While the need and concept of immunisation in children is understood, firmly entrenched and practiced adults often do not have any vaccine barring the customary TT (Tetanus Toxoid) shot after injuries, vaccine for hepatitis B for contact of patients with HBV (hepatitis infection, anti-rabies vaccine after animal, usually dog, bite) and vaccines for/before travel. It was well recognised during COVID, but this acceptance needs to extend for prevention of Pneumonia, Flu, Hepatitis B, Shingles, and other vaccines to prevent morbidity and/or mortality associated with these infections to adults in general but also to certain category of patients with decreased immunity like diabetics. The efficacy and safety of these vaccines is well established, and the cost should be viewed against the protection these offer.”

Certain misconceptions about adult vaccination also hold back adults from getting vaccinated. Many (50%) believe that multiple doses of vaccines can make them dependent on vaccines More than half of adults aged 50 years or older (58%) and their caregivers (62%) feel that there are better ways than vaccination to protect themselves or their parents/in-laws from diseases. In Hyderabad, 67% adults aged 50 years or older feel the same and 67% believe that diseases other than COVID are not severe enough to require vaccination. A significant number of adults aged 50 years or older (67%) and their caregivers (82%) in Hyderabad also believe that adult vaccines are unaffordable. This number is significantly higher than the national average (38% adults aged ≥50 and 41% caregivers).

Since shingles is an important vaccine-preventable disease (VPD) amongst adults aged 50 years or older and there is low awareness about its prevention through vaccination, the second part of the survey was conducted with shingles patients aged 50 years or older to understand the level of awareness and impact of this condition on patients. Shingles, or Herpes Zoster, is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus that resides in 90% of adults aged 50 years or older.[i] It is an extremely painful condition where the pain can last for weeks or months[ii].

The shingles survey shows that awareness about the condition is low in the country. Shingles patients find it difficult to differentiate between shingles and other skin conditions, resulting in delays in diagnosis that make the treatment less effective. Pain was the most distressing symptom for 79% of patients, and 72% were unaware of shingles before they got it. Even after they got it, 73% of patients were not aware that they can get shingles again. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension were reported by 66% of patients surveyed which made them more vulnerable to getting shingles and reinforced the need for such patients to get vaccinated.

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