India must make adult immunization integral part of routine patient care: Experts

Srinagar, May 18: Health experts are urging for increased focus on immunization for older adults which is an overlooked but critical health issue in India. This call-to-action comes in light of our country’s growing aging and adult population (60+ years), which is estimated to increase to 12.4% of the total population by 2026, up from 5.6% in 1961.2
As people grow older, their immune system undergoes age-related changes, which results in progressive deterioration of their immune response.3 This makes them more susceptible to infections which last for a longer period, recur more frequently and lead to an increase in morbidity and mortality.3 Infections such as pneumococcal disease (e.g. pneumonia) are more common amongst older adults than other age groups4 but can be prevented or have their severity reduced with vaccination.3
Dr. Parvaiz A Koul, Professor and Head- Internal and Pulmonary Medicine, Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences India, said, “Most people are aware that as they grow older, they are more prone to developing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, which require lifelong management. What they are not aware of is that ageing also makes them susceptible to some serious infectious diseases such as pneumonia, which can be life threatening on their own and more so with other comorbidities. We have adult vaccines to prevent these infections, but our adult immunization coverage remains low. We must push for adult immunization to prevent disability and death caused by these diseases and bring down India’s overall disease burden.”
The Geriatric Society of India recommends 5 key vaccines for older adults3: Pneumococcal vaccine against infections such as pneumonia caused by Streptococcuspneumoniae, Influenza (annual) vaccine against seasonal influenza, Herpes zoster against herpes or shingles – a painful skin rash, Tdap (combined tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis) vaccine against both diphtheria and pertussis, and the Tetanus vaccine for protection against a commonly found bacteria.
The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) offers protection from several strains of S. pneumoniae responsible for pneumonia along with meningitis and bacteremia and is indicated for adults over the age of 50 years.3,5 Both healthy adults and those with comorbid conditions can benefit from the pneumococcal vaccination.3
Influenza is also a serious disease that could lead to hospitalization and even death and the influenza vaccine must be taken once every year to protect older adults from this potentially life-threatening disease. It is particularly important for those older than 65 years and those with other conditions such as heart disease, asthma, kidney disorders and liver disorders.