MANY think that vaccines, or immunisations, are just for children. After all, apart from receiving the Covid-19 vaccines, the last time any of us were inoculated was probably when we were in school.

The ability to protect ourselves from infectious diseases through immunisation is a medical marvel, one that is often taken for granted.

Looking at Covid-19, we have seen that vaccination is effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalised and even death. Therefore, as we approach the year-end holiday season, with all the anticipated family gatherings and long-awaited trips, amid the shopping, we must remember that the threat of flu (influenza) is still present.

We cannot afford to lower our guard. We need to have confidence in flu vaccination to prevent flu from affecting our children, relatives with comorbidities and the elderly who are at high risk of getting health complications from flu.

Many adults in Malaysia suffer illnesses and even death from flu, which can be prevented through vaccination, which is recommended annually for adults. However, only a small number of people choose to get their annual shot, with best estimates placing our vaccination rate at a mere 3%.

Is it any surprise that Southeast Asia is estimated to have one of the highest mortality rates from flu? The common perception of flu as a mild disease is flawed. While it is true that the flu itself does not kill, its complications can be fatal, especially among high-risk groups.

The consequences are significant as flu increases the risk of a heart attack by 10 times in adults as young as 40 years old. Increasing age further elevates the risk, with up to 85% of all flu-related deaths occurring in those 65 and above.

Experts recommend the annual flu vaccine as the most effective way to prevent the flu and the Malaysian Influenza Working Group strongly recommends it.

We also recommend that residents and staff of aged care facilities be given annual flu vaccinations. This can help reduce the risk of death by 48% among this age group.

By taking action to protect ourselves against the flu, we are also protecting those around us, especially those who are vulnerable.

Prof Zamberi Sekawi, Chairman, Malaysian Influenza Working Group. Comments: