Three-in-four Aussie adults don’t consider the potentially fatal consequences of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia as good enough reason to vaccinate against the infection, according to Lung Foundation Australia research published today to mark Know Pneumonia Day.
Respiratory physician and Lung Foundation Australia Respiratory Infectious Disease Committee Chair, Associate Professor Lucy Morgan argues Australians are not convinced of the seriousness of pneumococcal pneumonia infection, despite more than 63 per cent of research survey respondents reporting risk factors that predispose them to contracting the infection.
“Even among high risk groups, such as those aged over 65, there are no overwhelmingly high motivators for vaccination,” said A/Prof Morgan.
Pneumonia and pneumonia-like illness is among our nation’s leading causes of death, and the top five causes of hospitalisation.
“All adults aged 65 and over are at increased risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia due to their age alone, and many more have existing chronic medical conditions or lifestyle factors (current or past smoking) that place them at heightened risk of infection,” A/Prof Morgan said.
Lung Foundation Australia’s ‘Know Pneumonia’ research sampled 1,241 Australians aged 18 and above and found public efforts to raise awareness of the seriousness of pneumococcal pneumonia are simply not resonating.
“Even among high risk groups, such as those aged over 65, there are no overwhelming high motivators for vaccination,” A/Prof Morgan said.
More than three in four (75 per cent) of Australian adults were not interested in being vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, despite being informed of its serious and potentially fatal complications.
And worryingly, among survey respondents aged over 65, only 32 per cent strongly agreed their age puts them at risk of infection.
Infectious Diseases Paediatrician and Immunisation expert, Professor Robert Booy, Sydney maintains there is a strong difference between childhood and adult pneumococcal vaccination.
“We’re achieving 93 per cent pneumococcal vaccine uptake among Australian children. However, among equally vulnerable seniors, we’re failing to achieve even 50 per cent pneumococcal vaccine uptake, which could offer up to five more years of high quality life for an individual.
“Given grandchildren may pass pneumonia onto their grandparents, and vice-versa, protecting against pneumococcal infection would enrich their lives, allowing them to spend more quality time caring for, and interacting with their grandchildren,” said Prof Booy.
Lung Foundation Australia CEO, Heather Allan, said Australians are aware of the importance of eating well and exercising regularly, but are complacent in protecting against pneumococcal infection, which includes vaccination.
Pneumococcal vaccination is free under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for all Australians aged 65 and above, Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over, and Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and above who are medically at risk. The vaccine is also available on the PBS for those aged 18 and above who are medically at risk.
While anyone can contract pneumococcal pneumonia, those most risk include people aged over 65, smokers and those with chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disease.
For more information about pneumococcal pneumonia, head to www.lungfoundation.com.au/pneumonia or call 1800 654 301.