The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified adult immunization as a critical strategy for promoting healthy ageing in their ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing – Baseline Report 2020’. With India’s population ageing rapidly, the number of individuals above 50 years old is expected to reach 404 million by 2036, constituting 27% of the projected population. Ageing leads to decreased immunity, leaving older adults susceptible to infectious diseases like pneumonia, influenza, and shingles, which can have severe complications. For this cause, KG Hospital is involved in creating awareness on adult immunization.
Shingles: A Debilitating Disease for Aging Adults:
Shingles, a viral infection, poses a significant threat to ageing individuals. The condition manifests as a painful rash, often likened to labour pain. Nerve pain associated with shingles can persist even after the rash subsides, greatly impacting the daily lives of older adults and increasing their reliance on caregivers.
The link between Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Vulnerability to Vaccine-Preventable Diseases:
Non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes contribute to over half of India’s disease burden. Adults with these comorbidities are particularly susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). A recent report highlighted that more than 95% of VPD-related deaths in India occur among adults. These diseases not only cause debilitation but also complicate existing NCDs, leading to heightened hospitalization rates. Recent studies have revealed a potential connection between shingles, a vaccine-preventable disease, and an increased risk of stroke, particularly in the initial months following the infection.
Vaccination: A Life-Saving Measure:
Vaccinations have played a pivotal role in saving countless lives, contributing to the eradication or near-eradication of deadly diseases like smallpox and polio. While significant progress has been made in ensuring paediatric vaccinations, the WHO emphasizes the urgent need to prioritize adult immunization. By doing so, more lives can be saved, and the quality of life for older individuals can be improved. Additionally, these measures have the potential to alleviate the economic burden on healthcare systems, individuals, and caregivers.
With India’s population rapidly ageing, the WHO’s recognition of adult immunization as a key strategy for healthy ageing serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of preventative measures against infectious diseases in older adults. By prioritizing widespread access to adult vaccinations, India can work towards fostering healthier ageing, reducing disease burdens, and enhancing the overall well-being of its ageing population.
Dr Giri, a Consultant Diabetologist at KG Hospital Coimbatore, emphasizes the significant risks posed by infections such as shingles, pneumonia, and influenza in older adults, especially those with comorbid conditions like diabetes, asthma, or who are on steroid therapy and these infections can have severe consequences. However, the good news is that they can be easily prevented through vaccination. Dr Giri, who sees around 1,200 patients aged 50 and above every month, plays a crucial role in advising them about the appropriate vaccinations available to prevent these diseases and their potential complications.