In May 2022, medical experts led by researchers from the local educational and foreign organizations said it was high time to conduct a thorough review of the 10-year-old pneumonia vaccine strategy to reduce the mortality rate among children as pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death among children.
As of last year, the Philippines is in the fifth spot with the most number of pneumonia deaths.
In a recent forum, Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV) said the Philippines is one of the top zero dose countries for children in vaccination.
“This makes the Philippines a source of outbreaks of diseases,” Bravo told the audience in a recent a multi-stakeholder media forum organized by MSD titled “Advance the Fight Against Pneumonia” held in Mandaluyong City.
Golden age of vaccination
IT was quite different 30 years ago when the Department of Health was headed by the late senator Juan Flavier, according to Bravo.
“It was the golden period of immunization. Under Secretary Flavier, 8 million children eight years old and below were vaccinated during the month of April. We need to trust our leaders again,” Bravo pointed out.
Through his wit, charm, and folksy humor, Flavier was able to successfully implement the health programs of the Ramos administration that resonated to the public through simple and effective messages.
Bravo also urged the public to avoid and be vigilant against the so-called DOMs (disinformation, opportunism and misinformation) in undermining the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Professor Kim Mulholland, founder of the Global Action Plan Pneumonia Research Institute, said spreading fake news on the vaccines happens worldwide as rightwing conspiracy theorists issue outlandish and ridiculous theories against the vaccines.
“Backsliding is a problem we have to face caused by negative propaganda,” he said.
Prevention and vaccination
AS they say, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
Bravo lamented that some medical practitioners do not value vaccination. “Perhaps, they were not educated enough in the value of prevention during their student days in medical school,” she pointed out.
She said one can significantly lower their risk of contracting pneumonia through immunization. It is highly recommended for people at greater risk of catching pneumonia, namely infants under two years old, older adults over 65 years old, people with weakened or compromised immune systems, and people with chronic health conditions that affect the heart and lungs.
The Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) recommends adults 50 years old and above to get immunized with pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines (PPSV) or pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) to prevent invasive pneumococcal diseases.
Multiple access points
THE good news is, people can now secure their pneumococcal vaccinations from multiple access points, from hospitals and clinics, and at pharmacies and community drug stores as well.
Jennifer Flores, a member of the Philippine Pharmacists Association, said the Immunizing Pharmacist Certification Program of the Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA) will enable pharmacists to be trained and certified to become immunizing pharmacists, expanding the network of allied healthcare professionals pushing forward the fight against pneumonia.
Further, Filipinos aged 60 years old and above can get their pneumonia shots for free at the barangay health centers (BHCs) of their local government units (LGUs). This was made possible through the National Immunization Program (NIP) of the Department of Health (DOH).
Pneumonia is usually the result of a pneumococcal infection, caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Other different types of bacteria can also cause pneumonia, as well as viruses and, more rarely, fungi. Once a person is infected, this bacterial infection can cause swelling or inflammation of the tissues in one or both of our lungs. Symptoms of pneumonia develop within 24 to 48 hours and may include coughing, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, and chest pains.
Leading cause of death
IT remains a leading cause of death among older adults and people with chronic diseases. In the Philippines, pneumonia was the sixth leading cause of death in 2022, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
The forum also facilitates expert talks and multi-stakeholder discussions about the challenges and opportunities surrounding pneumonia prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in the Philippines.
World Pneumonia Day, celebrated every November 12, is a yearly reminder that pneumonia is a life-threatening disease that can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. The annual event not only draws more awareness to this severe lung infection, but also drives a whole of society approach to combat this highly preventable disease.
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