MANY Malaysians share a common assumption that vaccination is mainly for children and those travelling overseas.
However, the US Health Department said, unlike young children, adults were 100 times more likely to die from a vaccine- preventable disease.
Hence, a media dialogue to raise awareness on the importance of adult vaccination among Malaysians was held in Kuala Lumpur.
The session was presented by the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy (MSIDC) and supported by Sanofi Pasteur.
The panel comprised MSIDC president Prof Dr Zamberi Sekawi, Health Ministry Disease Control Division Surveillance Sector head Dr Wan Noraini Wan Mohamed Noor; Institute of Respiratory Medicine (IPR) senior consultant chest physician Dr Abdul Razak Abdul Muttalif and Hospital Sungai Buloh Department of Medicine head and senior consultant physician (infectious disease) Dr Christopher Lee Kwok Choong.
The session highlighted why adults neglected vaccination as a means to defend against illnesses and why a vaccine-preventable disease like influenza is often overlooked.
“There is a low use of adult vaccination in Malaysia due to inadequate public awareness as well as lack of funds,” Abdul Razak said.
Dr Wan Noraini said most vaccinations in Malaysia focused on childhood immunisations from newborns up until teenage as seen with the new addition of HPV introduced for teenage girls.
“Sadly enough, medical insurances do not cover the expenses of vaccination.
“Even if they do, the vaccination coverage is specific according to the types of job they are working in.
“Adults are reluctant to take influenza vaccination as they have to pay out of their own pocket,” she added.
Dr Lee said adults with high-risk factors should take more care.
People categorised in this group include elderly people aged from 60 to 65 years as well as middle-aged people with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart problems.
“When a person is at a higher risk, an infectious disease like influenza can have serious consequences if left untreated, leading to hospitalisation, and in some cases, loss of life.
“Vaccination provides varying degrees of protection with up to 77% reduction in hospitalisation in the case of influenza.
“When a person is vaccinated, he or she tends to have a greater ability to wage the fight against diseases.”
Dr Abdul Razak said there were different strains of viruses circulating each year.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts which strains will be prevalent and recommends the type of vaccine each year.
“Adults should ask their physicians or doctors about vaccination as a general means to protect one’s health,” he said.
Dr Wan Noraini also mentioned that there was no seasonal influenza in Malaysia as the country often experienced wet weather, so it was important to stay protected all year round.
“Adults need to keep their vaccination up to date to be protected. Influenza vaccination is recommended annually to ensure an optimal match between the vaccine and the prevailing influenza strains.”
In Malaysia, vaccines are available at private medical centres and clinics. For more information on vaccination, visit www.moh.gov.my or www.myhealth.gov.my