A recent survey conducted by The Association of Physicians of India (API) and Ipsos (a market research company), in 16 cities among 2,359 adults aged above 50, their caregivers, and doctors, has shown that only 12% of adults in Bengaluru have taken any adult vaccines.
Although 84% of 150 adults surveyed in Bengaluru are aware of adult vaccination, a significant number of adults (89%) and their caregivers (93%) said they would trust their doctor’s word if advised to get vaccinated.
Doctors in Bengaluru have recommended adult vaccines to only 12% of aging adults and only to those who ask for them, the survey found.
Overall, in the South zone (Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and Thiruvananthapuram), doctors have recommended adult vaccination to lesser adults (10%) compared to the national average (16%).
The survey revealed that although 71% of adults in the 16 cities are aware of adult vaccination, only 16% have taken any adult vaccines. According to experts, vaccination can prevent over 95% of deaths caused by vaccine-preventable diseases in India. The survey was conducted from February to March 2023.
Lack of guidelines
A majority of doctors surveyed (90%) said that a lack of formal guidelines results in a lack of interest and adoption of vaccination by patients. Doctors also hesitate to discuss adult vaccination with their patients because they have limitation of time, and they also feel patients are less receptive to vaccination recommendations due to cost as well as prioritisation of treatment over prevention.
Patients said that since they do not receive a firm recommendation from their doctors, they have not proactively taken adult vaccination. Many adults (69%) and their caregivers (76%) do not ask doctors about adult vaccination because they believe that if they needed it, their doctors would recommend it.
When asked about how to improve adult vaccination uptake, adult respondents (55%) and their caregivers (48%) said that measures such as those implemented for COVID-19 vaccination awareness can increase the adoption of adult vaccination.
Certain misconceptions about adult vaccination also hold back adults from getting vaccinated. More than half of adults (58%) and their caregivers (62%) feel that there are better ways than vaccination to protect themselves or their parents/in-laws from diseases.
Many (50%) believe that multiple doses of vaccines can make them dependent on vaccines. In Bengaluru, 61% of adults believe that diseases other than COVID-19 are not severe enough to require vaccination.
API secretary Agam Vora said measures need to be taken to increase the confidence of doctors in recommending vaccination for adults.
“This is possible if there are formal guidelines on adult immunisation. Programmes that address concerns, debunk myths, and remind patients and their caregivers frequently to ask doctors about adult vaccines can also drive adoption,” Dr. Vora said.
“Our survey also reveals that awareness of vaccine preventable diseases such as shingles is very low in India. We believe that only when adults are given complete information about the negative impact of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, will they take immunisation seriously. We should also acknowledge the role that caregivers can play in improving the uptake of adult vaccination and create awareness programs that target them,” he said.
Some of the vaccines recommended for adults
COVID, HPV, Influenza, Pneumococcal, Hepatitis A/B , Herpes Zoster (Shingles) and Tdap/Td (for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and acellular pertussis)