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Prevention is better than cure and the healthcare sector is now provided with more vaccines to avert the daunting challenges
of the increasing number of several diseases, and by preventing those diseases, the rate of health complications can be reduced significantly.
Experts say that immunity obtained through vaccination in childhood doesn’t last throughout adult life. Vaccines are needed for all people who turned 50 years and above. Some adults were never vaccinated in their childhood due to ignorance, myths and misconceptions about immunization.
There are millions of unimmunized children too who don’t receive vaccines despite extraordinary progress in immunizing more children over the past decade, reveals the World Health Organization (WHO).
This happens primarily due to parental attitudes and ignorance, rumors, misinformation and propaganda by some groups against vaccination, insufficient immunization system such as wrong attitudes of healthcare workers and family characteristics. Vaccination is considered among the most effective tool next to hygiene and sanitation strategies to safeguard the public health. Vaccines and immunization have gained a remarkable and significant role over the past century.
Immunisation is estimated to avert between two and three million deaths annually. Since 1988, the number of cases of poliomyelitis has dropped 99 per cent, and in 2012, polio cases further reduced in the few remaining endemic districts. The rate of deaths from measles has dropped by 78 per cent between 2000 and 2008 globally, through vaccination.
Benefits of immunization are now increasingly being extended to adolescents and adults, providing protection against life-threatening diseases such as influenza, meningitis and cancers. The majority of the VPD-related deaths are due to Pneumococcal disease and rotavirus diarrhea. However, new vaccines require additional technical and financial commitment.
The UAE health authorities are now strongly recommending adult immunization, aimed at eradicating all vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) in the country.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) has launched Vaccination Week 2012 on Wednesday in tandem with Abu Dhabi and Dubai health authorities with a comprehensive plan supported by a monitoring system that will ensure all residents in the country are protected from being affected by several preventive diseases and their causes.
The Vaccination Week, an annual region-wide initiative to promote immunization through advocacy, education and communication activities, has lined up a range of activities along with multiple private, nongovernmental and governmental sectors such as education, youth, sports, police and culture.
This programme is aimed at reaching every community, to strengthen public support for vaccine use, expand services to high risk populations, and maintain immunization high on the agenda of politicians and decision-makers.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, assistant undersecretary for Health Policies at the Ministry of Health said, “The UAE’s nationwide surveillance network for adult immunization is currently being strengthened, coupled with introduction of new vaccines. The ministry is trying to identify the priority challenges.”
“The immunization programme primarily targets on covering high-risk groups including immigrants, Haj and Umrah pilgrims, those affected by outbreaks, and special groups like diabetics, immunocom promised people, sickle cell anemia and heart disease patients,” he explained.
Dr Ibrahim Al Qadi, director of Central Preventive Medicine at the Ministry of Health said, “The Ministry of Health is now focusing on capacity building programmes for health professionals across the country for implementing the nationwide adult immunization strategies.”
“Two news vaccines will be introduced soon in the UAE, albeit there’s stress to the policymakers on investing in newer vaccines, expanding coverage to adolescence and adults,” he added.
Dr Farida Al Hosani, head of Communicable Diseases Prevention at Abu Dhabi Health Authority (HAAD), said that there are multiple elements regarding the adult immunization programme, which should be implemented after ensuring the availability of vaccines in sufficient quantity.
“Continuous training for healthcare professionals is a major element to improve the vaccination strategies throughout the country. The high-risk adult groups who are strongly recommended to take vaccines are people above 65 years of age, chronic patients, diabetics and kidney patients,” she added.
“The adult immunization included vaccines for Hepatitis-B, chickenpox influenza, Pneumonia, as well as the vaccines for diabetics and cervical cancer. Haj and Umrah pilgrims are required to get vaccinated for Meningitis, Influenza and other infectious diseases,” she elaborated.
Dr Fatma Al Attar, head of Preventive Medicine Department at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said, “Vaccination is needed throughout the lifespan to reduce the heavy burden of vaccine-preventable diseases. But, the rate of immunization among the adults is very low.”
“Immunization, as scientifically proven, is the most cost-effective way to improve human immunity system or the only ‘therapy’ that is proactive. The vaccinations are particularly important for caregivers and that there is a very low incidence of adverse effects. Immunization also reduces the incidences of mortality due to certain diseases,” she elaborated.
“There are a number of barriers to the immunization such as misconceptions, unawareness, mistrust, cultural or ethnical issues, limited resources, lack of sufficient funds, lack of health insurance coverage and short of experts,” Dr Al Attar said.
According to her, the strategies to improve immunization rates required “providers or a system-based intervention, assessment and feedback, standing orders and policies.” The primary care physicians have is their key role in increasing awareness about the VPD among the public.
Citing that the immunization programme started three years ago for patients of Dubai Diabetic Centre with shots for Pneumococcal and influenza, Dr Al Attar pointed out that vaccines can help prevent many infectious diseases in adults. The number of chicken pox cases also has decreased among the vaccinated diabetics from the year 2008 to 2011.
“Aimed at ensuring that all community members should have updated information on the immunization, the DHA vaccinated hundreds of adults during the immunization week across the entire 13 primary healthcare centers (PHC) located across the Emirate as well as at Hatta Hospital,” said Dr Fatma Sultan Al Olama, head of Child Health Care Unit at the DHA.
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Last modified on 29/04/2012 10:44
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