GSK Advocates Importance of Adult Immunisation amongst Malaysians

Recently I attended GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Media Day & Raya Open House, during the event we also participated in GSK Global Media Day Virtual Broadcast discussing about The Value of Prevention, The Broader Benefits of Adult Immunisation, and Unlocking the Power of Prevention. During World Immunisation Week, GSK is uniting globally to emphasise the importance of adult immunisation. 

GSK Advocates Importance of Adult Immunisation amongst Malaysians, Adult Immunisation, GSK, Health
GSK Advocates Importance of Adult Immunisation amongst Malaysians

In conjunction with World Immunisation Week 2024 (24 April – 30 April), GSK organised a timely discourse, bringing together local and global experts to share their perspectives on the changing vaccine landscape, the benefits of vaccines in older adults, and the socio-economic value of adult immunisation.

GSK Advocates Importance of Adult Immunisation amongst Malaysians, Adult Immunisation, GSK, Health
GSK Global Media Day Virtual Broadcast

As Malaysia's population shifts towards an ageing demographic, the importance of adult immunisation becomes increasingly apparent. By ensuring that individuals receive necessary vaccinations, adults can remain active, be healthy participants of society and the economy – prolonging productivity, maintaining contributions to local economies, and reducing healthcare costs, even as they enter their golden years.

GSK Media Day & Raya Open House

As we know that prevention is better than cure, especially the elderly are more prone to sickness. Therefore, adult immunisation is important to prevent diseases and also can save the medical bills. 

According to the latest data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), the number of individuals aged 65 years and above is on the rise with approximately 2.5 million people falling into this category. DOSM also projects that Malaysia will have a nearly equal share of the young (18.6%) and older population (14.5%) in 2040. This means that in less than 2 decades, the old age group will surpass 6.0 million, transitioning Malaysia into an aged society.

GSK Advocates Importance of Adult Immunisation amongst Malaysians, Adult Immunisation, GSK, Health
Panel Discussion: Adult Vaccination Landscape and Impact of Preventative Care in Malaysia (from left: Dr Thanabalan Fonseka, Vaccines Medical Director, GSK Malaysia; and Professor Dr Tan Maw Pin, Consultant Geriatrician, University of Malaya Medical Centre

The event was further supplemented by a local panel discussion which featured insightful discussions, lively debates and generous knowledge-sharing about unlocking the power of prevention of vaccine preventable diseases (VPD) amongst Malaysian adults, key challenges faced by the healthcare industry, and opportunities to develop practical and impactful solutions in transitioning towards a healthier ageing society in the country.

Dr. Thanabalan Fonseka, Vaccines Medical Director of GSK Malaysia and Brunei said: “Childhood immunisation initiatives in schools and within communities are well-established with high coverage rates. Contrary to this, the primary challenge surrounding adult vaccination lies in the prevailing lack of awareness on VPD and their preventative options. Consequently, many adults remain unaware of the critical importance of maintaining up-to-date vaccinations or may inadvertently overlook recommendations for booster shots or newly available vaccines later in life.”

Moreover, logistical hurdles, such as limited access to healthcare services and financial constraints, further impede adult vaccination rates. Thus, there is an urgent need to elevate awareness, enhance accessibility, and underscore the significance of prioritising adult vaccinations to ensure comprehensive protection against preventable diseases throughout adulthood. We must move from “sick care” to true preventative healthcare to make adult immunisation the standard of care by building belief in the value of adult vaccinations amongst Malaysians,” added Fonseka.

GSK Advocates Importance of Adult Immunisation amongst Malaysians, Adult Immunisation, GSK, Health

What is Adult Immunisation?

Adult vaccinations are vaccines specifically recommended for individuals in adulthood to protect oneself against various vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs). Most common adult vaccinations include COVID-19, influenza, pneumococcal disease, herpes zoster, and respiratory syncytial virus amongst others.

Who is at Risk?

The age group at risk for various illnesses targeted by adult vaccinations varies depending on the disease. However, generally, adults over the age of 50 are at increased risk for certain infectious diseases due to factors such as declining immune systems due to ageing, underlying health conditions, and decreased vaccine immunity over time. 

It's important to note that while older adults are often at higher risk, certain diseases can affect adults of all ages. Additionally, individuals with weakened immune systems due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, or immunosuppressive medications may be more vulnerable to infectious diseases regardless of age.

GSK goal is to raise awareness about the wide-ranging health, structural, and socioeconomic advantages that come with widespread adoption of adult vaccines for every individual worldwide. 

In partnership with cross-industry stakeholders, we aim to support 50 years of the World Health Organisation’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) to do what is humanly possible – saving lives through immunisation.

GSK continues to emphasise the importance of prevention as the cornerstone of healthcare. With one of the most extensive vaccine portfolios globally, GSK is dedicated to protecting individuals of all ages, including older adults and reshape policy around adult immunisation to stay ahead of the curve and continue its momentum to play a part in the betterment of public health in Malaysia.

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