Why It Matters

The point of adult vaccinations

While childhood vaccinations have become a matter of course, the same cannot be said for adult vaccinations.

A variety of vaccines are now available to adults, but many Singaporeans believe these are needed only if they are travelling overseas, according to a Straits Times report earlier this year.

This could change with the new National Adult Immunisation Schedule, which was launched by the Health Ministry last Saturday. It lists seven vaccines that protect against 11 diseases. Like the National Childhood Immunisation Programme, the schedule provides guidelines on who should be vaccinated and when this should be done.

Most healthy adults are exempt from the recommendations, which target those who run a higher risk of serious consequences should they fall ill.

For example, the schedule includes a yearly influenza jab and up to two doses of the pneumococcal vaccine for seniors or those with chronic medical conditions. It also includes the human papillomavirus vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer.

Others, such as the hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines, are part of both the adult and childhood immunisation schedules. These are advised for adults who have not had the vaccines as children, or show no signs that they are immune to these diseases.

Including these vaccines in a formal schedule underscores their importance to the average person.

It also makes it easier for people to decide what vaccinations they should be getting at a certain age.

There is low awareness among adults when it comes to vaccines, say doctors. Many people accept that they should go for screening tests for colon, breast or cervical cancer at an early stage. The same preventive mindset can be applied to vaccines.

By getting vaccinated, you protect not just yourself, but also vulnerable family members, by lowering their chances of contracting any of these illnesses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'The point of vaccinations'. Print Edition | Subscribe