Asian backpackers checking out the photos taken during their trip

Vaccines as a Form of Public Health Prevention

Source: The Straits Times, 14 May 2016 © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

A common myth among Singaporeans is that vaccination is mainly for travellers, when this is important in helping to prevent diseases among adults in general, say doctors here.

This has resulted in immunisation rates of below 20 per cent for adults and below 10 per cent for those aged 50 to 69 here. In contrast, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have immunisation rates of 70 to 80 per cent for groups like the elderly or chronically ill.

Related: What do Immunisations Protect Against?

To raise public awareness and enhance the knowledge of general practitioners (GPs) here in using vaccines, four organisations have jointly launched an adult vaccination guide.

Three hundred copies of the guide were distributed at an official launch at Shangri-La Hotel last month, with members of the Singapore Medical Association also receiving an e-copy of it at a GP education programme.

“The book serves as a first step in educating the public on the usefulness of vaccination for disease prevention,” Professor Leo Yee Sin, director of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), said in an interview to publicise the guide on Wednesday.

Elderly woman painting and drawing with her daughter

The institute is one of four professional groups behind the book, along with the Society of Infectious Disease (Singapore), College of Physicians Singapore and the College of Family Physicians Singapore.

Prof Leo said: “One of the best ways to do public health prevention is through vaccines. However, we have yet to fully capitalise on vaccinations to prevent diseases.”

Adjunct Associate Professor Brenda Ang, chairman of the infection control committee at TTSH, said: “Unfortunately, the public tends to think medicine can be the solution when they fall sick, which is a challenge due to increasing worldwide antibiotic resistance.”

“There is also a misconception of influenza being a mild disease, when it can attack the brain, lungs and kidneys.”

Doctors highly recommend that women go for influenza and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertusses) vaccination during every pregnancy.

Related: Vaccinations to Consider Before You Conceive

Prof Leo said: “Cross-protection from mother to baby is evident, as fewer respiratory diseases are passed to the baby when the mother has influenza immunisation.”

Doctors also said immunisation is very important for caregivers.

Noting that a common myth here is that vaccination is for travellers, Dr Leong Choon Kit, a GP, said “people do not see the link between their children and elderly falling sick, due to the lack of vaccination among the domestic helpers”.

The guide is not for sale, but an e-copy can be found online, such as on the website of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology.

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