YABhg Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Hj Mohd Ali urged Malaysian families to protect their most vulnerable members – young children and ageing parents – from the dangers of influenza (the flu) by getting them vaccinated against the disease.
She was speaking at the launch of the ‘Flu Prevention is an Act of Love’ campaign organised by Immunise4Life (IFL), in association with the Malaysian Influenza Working Group (MIWG) and the Vaccination is Protection (VIP) initiative.
IFL is a major community education programme involving the collaboration of Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH), Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA), and Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy (MSIDC).
Tun Siti, who is Patron of the IFL programme, pointed out that the flu is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, children under 5 years old, adults over 65, and people with health conditions (like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease).
She said it is vital for everyone in these high-risk groups to get vaccinated against the flu, adding that she and her husband, Prime Minister YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, make it a point to get their flu vaccinations every year.
According to Professor Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, IFL Technical Committee Chairman, children and adults are constantly under threat from a host of vaccine-preventable diseases including the flu, pneumococcal disease, meningitis, chicken pox, and so on. Unfortunately, uptake of these additional recommended vaccines is low, especially in relation to the flu.
Datuk Zulkifli explained: “Many individuals do not see the need to vaccinate because they confuse the flu (caused by influenza viruses) with the common cold (caused by rhinovirus and other viruses). This is a deadly mistake because, unlike the cold which is harmless, the flu can kill.
“Both infections share similar symptoms, like a cough, sore throat, and runny nose. Trouble is, people fail to realise they have the flu when other symptoms emerge – such as, fever, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and sometime, diarrhoea.
“Some infected persons may overcome the flu and recover, but others may not. Owing to their age and pre-existing health conditions, they may develop severe illness and potentially fatal complications including inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia), heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis), and multi-organ failure.”
Datuk Zulkifli pointed out that concern over poor awareness of the flu led the IFL programme to mount the “Flu Prevention is an Act of Love” campaign. He expressed his gratitude to Tun Siti for personally advocating flu vaccination in a series of videos on the family (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OR2x6Xjvow), young children (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoiKXdk6O-s), and senior citizens (https://youtu.be/d95mE8GL530)
There is also an interactive flu checker (https://actoflove.ifl.my/flucheckerseniors/seniorcheckerenglish.php) to help caring adult children better understand their ageing parents’ flu vaccination needs.”
Immunise4Life (IFL) was launched in 2012 by YBhg Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Health Malaysia, as a major community education programme aimed at promoting vaccination for children, adults and special groups. IFL employs a multi-faceted and multi-channel communications approach to raise awareness and acceptance of vaccination, while dispelling myths and misinformation in order to raise vaccine confidence among the public. IFL is overseen and directed by a panel of experts from Ministry of Health Malaysia, Malaysian Paediatric Association, and Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy.