OWING to the drastic shift in our daily lives, Malaysians have become more conscious than ever of issues affecting our health, but it is necessary to know that many dangerous infectious diseases can be prevented through vaccination - beyond the novel coronavirus.
For example, pneumococcal pneumonia is an infectious, potentially serious bacterial lung disease commonly caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. It can spread to others through coughing or close contact.
That said, awareness and health literacy on vaccinations to protect against such diseases remain low among Malaysians, as revealed by the results of an April 2021 online survey conducted by Malaysian Thoracic Society (MTS).
Supported by Pfizer Malaysia, the survey sought to uncover knowledge on pneumococcal pneumonia, behavioural patterns in relation to healthcare choices and perceptions on vaccination among Malaysians.
About one in two surveyed think only babies and children are susceptible to pneumococcal pneumonia, while more than half of the respondents (62%) are unaware that it can be prevented through vaccination.
58% of survey respondents cited poor awareness among the main barriers that prevented higher vaccination figures for pneumococcal pneumonia, with many believing that only those with chronic conditions should get vaccinated against it.
Pneumonia affects approximately 450 million people around the world yearly - especially the elderly and those with co-morbidities. It is a major cause of death among all age groups, accounting for 4 million or 7% of total global deaths in 2010.
Locally, pneumonia was the second leading cause of death in 2018 and the principal cause of death for females (12.8%). A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia; with one of the common types of bacterial pneumonia being pneumococcal pneumonia.
"The elderly are predisposed to the disease because of their impaired gag reflex and mucociliary function, declining immunity and the presence of comorbid conditions – this is especially worrying because Malaysia will become an ageing nation by 2030", said MTS president and senior consultant respiratory physician Assoc Prof Dr Pang Yong Kek, speaking at a recent webinar titled 'Why Vaccination is Important for Adults Too’.
“Older adults are at high risk for infectious diseases, and vaccination is an important preventive measure to facilitate healthy ageing, protecting the population and avoiding the risks of outbreaks in the country,” he shared.
Consultant physician and infectious disease consultant Dr Chow Ting Soo added, “You should understand that the impact of infectious diseases is not just limited to ourselves but extends to our loved ones and community.
“Because vaccine-preventable diseases are infectious diseases, their management not only involves the patient, but also those in close contact, and ultimately the nation.”
Covid-19 has also shed light on the vital role of telemedicine, delivered through platforms like DoctorOnCall, which enables fast, easy and cost-effective access to top doctors and other healthcare providers in Malaysia.
Its co-founder and managing director Maran Virumandi explained, “Telemedicine enables healthcare services to provide faster treatment and better patient outcomes by employing patient-centered approaches.
“The value of on-demand services through telemedicine is that patients can resolve healthcare issues quickly and receive necessary care at any time of day, anywhere.”
The webinar is part of the MTS ‘You Are Our Best Shot’ campaign, supported by Pfizer Malaysia, which seeks to normalise adult vaccination and improve health literacy for higher vaccination uptake rates among older adults and in turn, bring about a healthier Malaysia.
An integrated public awareness campaign to encourage pneumococcal vaccination among older Malaysians as an integral part of healthy ageing and public health, the campaign was introduced in conjunction with World Immunisation Week.
The campaign is in line with Pfizer’s belief in a world where no one should suffer from a vaccine-preventable disease, with Pfizer Malaysia and Brunei country manager Luksanawan Thangpaibool noting that people are often unaware of the impact that infectious diseases can have on us and our loved ones.
“Ongoing vaccination is a crucial cornerstone in keeping our communities healthy, as it protects us from many serious infectious diseases at every stage of life,” she said, stressing that people need to consult their doctors to protect themselves and their loved ones against vaccine-preventable diseases.
To learn more about pneumococcal pneumonia, please consult your doctor and visit PreventPneumonia.com.my.
COVID-19: coronavirus disease – 2019
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