Time to push for twice-a-year flu jabs

Congratulations to Dr Barnaby Young on his win at the recent medical congress (Flu jab study wins gold at health congress; Oct 26).

His work on influenza in Singapore is sorely needed. Singapore's unique location with two annual influenza seasons creates a conundrum.

Is one or two doses needed for the tropics?

His research showed two doses were better, providing better antibody levels, with fewer attacks of acute respiratory tract infections and influenza-like illness (30-60 per cent). This will in turn reduce hospital admissions, pneumonia, heart attacks and, ultimately, death. Needless to say, it will save many precious resources such as hospital beds, staff and finances.

His study has wide-reaching impact for our country and our neighbours.

Prevention with influenza vaccine has been shown repeatedly to be more cost-effective then treatment. More of these studies should and must be conducted. They are locally very relevant, but of limited worldwide appeal because of geographic, political and economic reasons.

Kudos to the National Healthcare Group and the National Medical Research Council who saw the value and funded this essential research.

But research without action is just lip service. The Ministry of Health should now consider advocating twice-yearly vaccination for the at-risk groups, especially the elderly.

MOH can educate the public on the benefits through various campaigns.

Professional bodies such as the Singapore Medical Association, College of Family Physicians Singapore and the Society of Infectious Disease Singapore could join hands in updating and reminding doctors to encourage their patients to take up the shots.

The pharmaceutical companies can support these efforts by lowering the cost of the vaccines to vulnerable and financially challenged groups in our society. Medical social enterprises such as the GP+ Cooperative led by Dr Leong Choon Kit are suitable avenues.

Show love to our Merdeka and Pioneer generations with the gift of health. Offer them heavily subsidised if not free twice-yearly vaccines. This apparent greater expenditure will be met with even greater economic savings as the elderly are kept healthy and out of hospital.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2018, with the headline 'Time to push for twice-a-year flu jabs'. Print Edition | Subscribe