By Puja Gupta
With 2.2 million cases of typhoid being recorded in India alone in 2016, typhoid fever poses a serious disease burden in the country. However, a recent survey reveals that only 66 per cent of people are aware of the typhoid vaccination that can prevent the typhoid fever.
Typhoid tends to affect children most, with peak incidence occurring in children aged 5-15 years.
The survey, conducted by Abbott in partnership with Babygogo, revealed that about one fifth of respondents in Delhi who did not vaccinate their children (18 per cent) considered typhoid to be ‘not at all serious’ or ‘mild/easily manageable’.
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The survey was conducted across eight cities — Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune — to understand the perceptions and barriers surrounding typhoid vaccination. A total of 1,337 respondents were surveyed online on awareness levels, motivation and behaviours surrounding vaccination against typhoid in India. 37 per cent of caregivers surveyed had children aged 0 to 6 months, 39 per cent had children aged 6 months to a year and 24 per cent of people had children 1-2 years old.
Findings revealed that there are higher levels of awareness for mandatory vaccines, i.e., vaccines given in National Immunization Program of the country (NIP) such as rotavirus (82 per cent) compared to vaccines not given in NIP such as influenza (67 per cent) and typhoid (66 per cent).
Other findings of the survey suggest that key reasons for not vaccinating include absence of vaccine recommendation by the pediatrician (48 per cent) and non-inclusion in the list of NIP vaccines (36 per cent).
Misleading Symptoms and Delay in Treatment
Commenting on these findings, Dr. Shyam Kukreja, Director and Head, Department of Pediatrics, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Delhi, said: “The Indian sub-continent has the highest typhoid disease burden. The disease spreads through the oro-faecal route and therefore, improvement in the quality of drinking water and sanitation are some solutions to control the disease. The interim solution is vaccination against typhoid, particularly in high endemic regions. Typhoid conjugate vaccine is the most efficacious vaccine developed against typhoid, and is also effective in younger children under the age of 2 years.”
Myths on causes of the disease
Survey findings also show that myths about the disease are highly prevalent. As a bacterial bloodstream infection, typhoid fever spreads through contaminated water and food, often due to lack of hygiene and access to drinkable water. Yet 57 per cent of survey respondents nationwide inaccurately attributed the cause of typhoid to a change of weather or season. Only a minority of mothers in Delhi identified close contact (18 per cent), touching contaminated surfaces (25 per cent) or eating food cooked by a typhoid patient (21 per cent) as risky behaviours that could spread typhoid.
Prevention helps lessen infections and drug resistance
Studies have shown that vaccinations can help lower the incidence of infection, but 8 per cent of the respondents in Delhi stated that they prefer to take the risk of getting a serious medical condition than to receive a vaccination for it.
Dr. Kukreja added, “Moreover, vaccination helps in reducing the disease burden but there is low level of awareness regarding the benefits of typhoid vaccine. The findings also indicate that the vast majority of people surveyed have low levels of awareness about typhoid and the specific precautions that need to be taken to protect themselves and their families. Education around the benefits of getting children vaccinated is required which in turn can play a key role in ensuring higher immunization rates to protect children from this disease.”
Dr. Srirupa Das, Medical Director, Abbott India, explains, “The findings shed light on awareness levels, motivation and behaviors around typhoid vaccination in India. They suggest that increased awareness on typhoid and ways to prevent it, such as improved hygiene levels and vaccination, can contribute to lessening India’s health burden due to typhoid infections. As part of our mission of helping people live healthier lives, we support educational initiatives on typhoid fever in India, especially amongst new mothers and parents in general.” (IANS)