KUALA LUMPUR: As Malaysia’s population shifts towards an ageing demographic, the importance of adult immunisation becomes increasingly apparent.

To advocate the importance of adult immunisation amongst Malaysians and in conjunction with the World Immunisation Week 2024 (April 24-30), GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has 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.

In a statement today, it said the event also 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.

Vaccines Medical Director of GSK Malaysia and Brunei Dr Thanabalan Fonseka was also quoted in the statement as saying that 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 of 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,” he said.

Moreover, Dr Fonseka said logistical hurdles such as limited access to healthcare services and financial constraints, further impede adult vaccination rates.

Thus, he said 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.

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 per cent) and older population (14.5 per cent) in 2040 and this means that in less than 2 decades, the old age group will surpass 6.0 million, transitioning Malaysia into an aged society.

During World Immunisation Week, GSK is uniting globally to emphasise the importance of adult immunisation to raise awareness about the wide-ranging health, structural, and socioeconomic advantages that come with the widespread adoption of adult vaccines for every individual worldwide.

In partnership with cross-industry stakeholders, GSK aims 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.

It said with one of the most extensive vaccine portfolios globally, GSK is dedicated to protecting individuals of all ages, including older adults and reshaping 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.