National Vaccination Day is observed every year on 16th March to spread nationwide awareness about the importance of vaccination.
Although childhood vaccination is crucial, the risk of acquiring diseases persists throughout life, based on factors such as age, health condition, lifestyle, work, or travel. In addition, the protection from some vaccines wears off over time, further emphasizing the need to revaccinate.
Therefore, this National Vaccination Day, we urge every individual to prioritize their health and get themselves vaccinated against these 6 infectious diseases. These vaccines will protect you against infections and reduce the risk of serious complications.
1. Influenza (Flu) vaccine
Flu is a contagious disease that can spread quickly and easily. Cases of influenza presenting with fever, uncontrollable cough with or without wheezing, and loss of voice have seen a surge in the last few weeks across the country. As per the surveillance data from ICMR from December 15th, 2022 to date, H3N2 flu is the main cause behind these cases, alongside other flu viruses . Medical experts have suspected a direct correlation with post-COVID altered immunity. According to them, this altered immunity is due to the drop in the use of masks, which resulted in increased exposure to the influenza virus. Also, lack of awareness around the flu vaccine has led to an increase in respiratory illnesses.
The recommended dosage regime is one dose of inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) that is administered annually (preferably October-April), as per your age, under medical guidance to protect against the flu virus. This vaccine is especially important for those who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, including adults 65 years and older, pregnant women or those who will be pregnant during influenza season, and people with certain underlying diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, or heart disease.
The influenza vaccine lasts just one flu season because the virus evolves. Therefore, what worked this year may not work next year. However, India has made remarkable progress in scaling up routine immunization through intensified vaccination drives and one such is the Flu vaccine drive.
Shot of truth:
-Studies have reported that seasonal flu shots lower your chance of getting the flu by half and spreading it to others.
-The flu vaccine is not effective against COVID-19, but it will protect individuals from the burden of seasonal flu.
–Healthcare providers have warned against the use of antibiotics as they do not cure the flu and may create resistance to the antibiotics.
2. Pneumococcal vaccine
Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus is the bacteria that causes bacterial meningitis and bacteremia (a blood infection). These diseases are more likely to spread during cold weather due to the drop in immune levels and an increased likelihood of infections. But the good news is that two vaccines, named Streptococcus pneumoniae infections- PCV13 (called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) and PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine), help prevent this infection. Elderly over the age of 65, adults aged between 19-64 years with high-risk conditions such as asthma, heart, lung, or kidney disease, or HIV infection, those who are smokers, and children below 2 years of age should be given the pneumococcal vaccine.
Shot of truth:
As per the results of clinical trials undertaken in a larger group, pneumococcal vaccination has shown about a 95% reduction in the rate of pneumonia and related infections.
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3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
Both girls and boys are recommended to receive the HPV vaccine to safeguard themselves against cervical cancer and genital warts. It is essential to get this vaccine if you are a woman aged <26 years or a man aged <21 years (however, this vaccine is not approved for men and boys yet in India). This vaccine is usually administered in 3 doses over 6 months. If you have not received the HPV vaccine previously, a 3-dose series will be administered at 0, 1–2, and 6 months intervals. Your healthcare provider will inform you about your schedule.HPV vaccine is not recommended during pregnancy. People who are pregnant should delay the initiation of this vaccination series until after the pregnancy.
Shot of truth:
If the HPV vaccine is given to women before sexual maturity, it can provide up to 90% protection against cervical cancer.
4. Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap, Td) vaccine
As the name suggests, the Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough ), and the Td booster vaccine protects against tetanus and diphtheria in adults. Tetanus causes painful muscle tightening throughout the body; diphtheria is a serious infection of the throat that can block the airway and cause severe breathing problems; whooping cough causes uncontrollable coughing.
If you have not received a Tdap dose during your lifetime, it is crucial to get vaccinated immediately to ensure protection against these diseases. Moreover, every pregnant woman needs to get a dose during each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
For adults aged between 18 and 64 years who have completed their primary vaccination schedule, it is advisable to get a Td booster dose every 10 years or after 5 years in case of a severe wound or burn[6-8].
Shot of truth:
All over the world, tetanus and diphtheria cases have gone down by 99% and whooping cough by 80% since the introduction of this vaccine.
5. Hepatitis B (Hep B) Vaccine
The Hep B vaccine protects against hepatitis, a viral infection of the liver that can lead to jaundice, causing yellowing of the eyes and skin. Adults at high risk of liver diseases are advised to get 3 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine at 0, 1, and 6 months intervals. This group includes individuals with chronic liver disease or HIV infection, who have had sexual contact with someone infected with hepatitis B, sexually-active homosexual men, healthcare workers and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or body fluids, or those traveling to hepatitis-infected areas. Pregnant women should also be vaccinated if they are at risk of getting hepatitis B.
Shot of truth:
A new recommendation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says all adults should be screened at least once in their lifetime for hepatitis B infection.
6. Covid-19 vaccine
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2019, there have been variants (VOCs) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, especially the delta COVID variant, which has kept the world on edge. Right now, vaccination is the only way to ensure safety against these unpredictable mutants.
Vaccination reduces the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 and significantly diminishes the chances of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. COVID-19 vaccines are safe for most people aged 18 years and older, including those with pre-existing conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, lung, liver, and kidney disease, as well as chronic infections that are stable and controlled.
For two-dose vaccines, the first dose gives partial protection and the second dose increases that protection. While the initial doses help develop a robust immunity against the pathogen, booster shots help maintain those immunity levels. According to WHO, individuals over 18 years of age should receive 1 booster dose 4-6 months after completing the primary series[10, 11].
Although booster dose campaigns did not gather as much heat as the previous campaigns, researchers and healthcare providers have highlighted that the booster dose is important because it keeps us immunized. This ensures that even if the virus attacks us, there are enough antibodies to ensure that the infection is mild.
Shot of truth:
According to the data from the US CDC, unvaccinated individuals are at an 11 times higher risk of COVID-19 mortality than vaccinated people.
Keep in mind that it’s important to seek advice from a healthcare professional to determine the right vaccine based on your age, health status, and medical history. To consult now-
This National Vaccination Day pledge to keep yourself up-to-date on your vaccination schedules and show gratitude to our researchers, scientists, and healthcare workers who work around the clock to ensure we are healthy.
(The article is written by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor, and reviewed by Dr. Rajeev Sharma, Vice President (Medical Affairs)
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14. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Seasonal Influenza. Available online: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1905602;