April 23, 2018, 8:05 am
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Raising awareness on the burden of pneumonia

MANILA was among the first cities to commemorate World Pneumonia Day, which was recently led by the World Health Organization (WHO). This annual observance aims to raise awareness on the burden of pneumonia and encourage multi-stakeholder groups to proactively combat this vaccine-preventable disease. 

The pneumonia vaccination caravan for the elderly was recently held at the Tondo Sports Complex where over 500 senior citizens were given free pneumococcal polysaccharide and influenza vaccines. The event was spearheaded by the Manila City Government, Department of Health (DOH) and the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA), with support from biopharmaceutical company MSD in the Philippines. 

 “Pneumonia is one of the most solvable healthcare problems, yet it is still the fourth leading cause of death among Filipinos and the top vaccine-preventable cause of death,” noted Dr. Benjamin Yson, City Health Officer of Manila, as he cited data from the DOH. “Raising awareness against the disease is of primary importance, as well as promoting prevention through modern healthcare solutions such as immunization.” 

The fight against pneumonia is part of the DOH’s national immunization program to help protect the health of Filipino senior citizens. 

 “Pneumonia is a serious illness usually caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae which may also cause meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and bacteremia, the presence of bacteria in the blood,” explained Dr. Dolores Manese, Coordinator for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) of the Manila Health Department. The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine administered by the government protect against this bacteria. 

The ceremonial vaccination signaled the beginning of strengthened countrywide effort against pneumonia, with succeeding vaccination drives to be held across the country. Free vaccination is also available in the 59 healthcare centers across Manila, according to Dr. Manese. 

To further emphasize the need to raise awareness on pneumonia, Dr. Manese also led a discussion on the causes and risk factors in getting the disease, its difference with influenza, symptoms, and treatment. Every person regardless of age may get pneumonia, but most vulnerable to acquiring it are infants, older adults, and people with other pre-existing health conditions. 

 “Senior citizens, in particular, are in danger of pneumonia because of their weakened immune system and they may have other illnesses that can aggravate the disease. This is why, we are strongly encouraging the elderly to take advantage of this healthcare benefit given by the government. Pneumonia and influenza are diseases that can be easily prevented through vaccination,” said Jeffrey Manansala, Officer-in-Charge at OSCA. 

Dr. Romeo B. Cando, District Health Officer, also emphasized that the Manila City government is working closely with the DOH towards the goal of giving quality healthcare services for the young, adults, and the elderly. Childhood pneumonia is likewise a serious healthcare concern, as it is identified by the WHO as the single largest infectious cause of death in children under the age of five worldwide. 

The senior citizen beneficiaries expressed gratitude to the City Government of Manila, DOH and the OSCA for the activity that made protection against pneumonia and influenza even more accessible for them. 

 “It is good that we get to have protection against these diseases, because ageing makes us prone to more illnesses. My advice also to fellow senior citizens is to quit vices like smoking and drinking, exercise every day, and get vaccines such as these,” shared 62-year-old Pio Gordola. 

 “In these times, it is necessary to avoid illnesses. We appreciate these events because they ensure that we’ll still have strong bodies even though we’re old already. We can still enjoy healthy lives,” said 66-year-old Amelia Hebres. 

Her companion, Isabelita Cardenio, also 66, added, “It’s nice to take this opportunity because it’s free. For me, this is important because I want to be healthy for my grandchildren, and I don’t want them to be infected with pneumonia or flu because of me.”
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