May 26, 2023
Coimbatore : The World Health Organization (WHO) defines healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” The WHO has also recognised adult immunisation as one of the strategies for healthy ageing in their ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing – Baseline Report -2020’.
The Indian population is ageing rapidly with the number of people above 50 years of age expected to increase to 404 million in 2036 from 260 million in 2020 , representing 27% of the country’s projected population. Ageing results in reduced immunity and makes older people vulnerable to infectious diseases such as pneumonia, influenza, and shingles and their complications. Shingles is a viral disease that can be debilitating for ageing adults. This disease causes a painful rash; the pain of shingles is described as comparable to labour pain. For some, the nerve pain lasts even after the rash has cleared up and interferes with the daily activities of ageing adults and increases their dependence on caregivers.
KG Hospital Coimbatore Consultant Diabetologist Dr. J Giri, says, “There are several infections such as shingles, pneumonia, and influenza which can be particularly dangerous in old age, more so with comorbid conditions like diabetes, asthma, or for those on steroid therapy. These can be easily prevented with vaccination. I see 1200 patients every month who are of 50 years and above, and I advise them about the appropriate vaccinations that can prevent certain diseases and their complications.”
In India, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes contribute to more than half of the total disease burden . Adults who suffer from such comorbidities are more prone to VPDs. A report recently suggested that more than 95% of deaths by VPDs in India have been reported in adults . Not only are these diseases debilitating, but they also tend to complicate the NCDs leading to increased hospitalisation. Recent studies have shown that shingles, a vaccine-preventable disease, can increase the risk of stroke, especially over the first few months after the infection .
Vaccinations have saved millions of lives through complete or almost-complete eradication of deadly diseases such as smallpox and polio. The concerted effort to make paediatric vaccinations accessible to all children has yielded measurable results. The need of the hour is to prioritise adult immunisation to save more lives and improve quality of life. These measures can also serve to reduce the economic burden of healthcare for individuals, caregivers, and the nation.