Elderly people increasingly die from illnesses caught during hospitalisation owing to their weakened immune systems
SRINAGAR: Co-morbidities, or additional illnesses that arise during treatment of a primary disease, are taking a heavy toll on the elderly of Jammu and Kashmir as adult immunization is still an “alien concept” in the region.
According to Dr Parvaiz Koul, Kashmir’s well-known pulmonologist and member National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization, “Every year elderly people die of co-morbid conditions during hospitalisation for some other disease or disorder. It happens because the immune system becomes much less robust as one gets older. This increases the risk of getting diseases like the flu and developing life-threatening consequences from them,” he told Kashmir Reader.
Dr Koul, who is the Professor and Head of the Department of Internal and Pulmonary Medicine at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, was speaking at the conclusion of World Immunization Week. He recommended that people above 50 years of age should follow a geriatric vaccination schedule to prevent death due to concurrent ailments during hospitalisation.
Dr Koul said the weakened immune system that age brings could also make vaccines previously taken less effective.
“The vaccines done during childhood can’t provide complete protection. That is why booster doses are needed in old age for some diseases,” he said.
According to him, the population in J&K of people over 60 has tripled in the past 50 years and will relentlessly increase in the near future.
“Infections such as pneumococcal disease, influenza, tetanus, and zoster are more common among the elderly population. These infections are major causes of morbidity and mortality among the elderly and are responsible for a large number of deaths and hospitalisations. Communicable diseases like influenza and pneumonia are also the leading cause of death among elderly persons,” Dr Koul said.
“The elderly population has also been shown to have an increased risk of hospital-acquired infections,” he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) theme this year – ‘Protected Together, #VaccinesWork’ – is set to help people make more efforts to increase immunization coverage in the hope of eradicating more diseases, as was achieved with smallpox and polio.
“Immunization is the process by which a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease through the use of a vaccine. It stimulates the body’s own immune system to protect the person against subsequent infection or any kind of disease,” says the WHO.
“Immunization has been recognised as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions, which is known to save millions of lives.”
Previously, Immunization Week activities were observed on different dates in different regions of the world. It was only in 2012 that the World Health Assembly supported World Immunization Week, and it was observed simultaneously for the first time that year, with the participation of more than 180 countries and territories worldwide.