Indians yet to catch up with adult vaccination

Prevention is better than cure. This saying does not seem to hold good for Indians as far as health care is concerned with only around 10 percent of adults opting for vaccines to reduce the threat of common diseases. Even as people become more health conscious only a minuscule population is opting for vaccines to prevent illnesses like flu and meningitis, health experts said. Some of the vaccines available for adults are against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Meningitis and the Human Papalloma Virus that causes cervical cancer.

“Prevention is always better than cure. But still preventive healthcare is lacking in India. People do not go to doctors until and unless it reaches a critical point,” Ravindra Gupta of the Internal Medicine department of Columbia Asia Hospital- Gurgaon told us. According to the WHO, around two billion people worldwide are infected with the Hepatitis B virus and 600,000 die each year due to its consequences. In India, approximately 80 million people harbour the Hepatitis B virus, which results in around 240,000 deaths annually. India reports one-fourth of the world’s cervical cancer cases. Gupta said: “In fact only less than 10 percent of people opt for vaccinations.

People need to be more aware and take charge of their own safety and well-being and keep away diseases and illnesses which can be prevented with vaccination.” Gupta said in some cases, even doctors are not aware about the various vaccines available for adults. However, he added, awareness has certainly improved among the masses as the knowledge about the available vaccines is growing. “There should also be a campaign on the need for adult vaccination at a greater level so that the people are informed about the vaccines available not just for children but for adults as well,” he said.

Ashu Sawhney, senior consultant and coordinator, neonatal intensive care, Jaypee Hospital, Noida, told us: “Immunization, which was previously limited to children, is becoming more and more popular for adults and the elderly. “It stimulates and enhances the body’s immune system to protect against various infectious diseases,” he said, adding that vaccination not only saves lives but is also more cost-effective considering the cost of treatment and loss of work days. Thus, more and more people should opt for vaccines to stay healthy, Sawhney added.

A senior health ministry official said that though the government does not have any national policy for adult vaccination like the child immunization programme, there are guidelines available. “Even the United States only has guidelines for adult vaccination,” the official said. Talking about the vaccines approved by the government, Atul Gogia of Sir Gangaram Hospital said: “Out of all the vaccines available for adults, only HPV vaccine has not been approved by the government. The rest of the vaccines are approved by the government”.

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