PROTECTING Filipinos in their old age is an important mandate of the Department of Health (DOH) that is enforced through the “Health and Wellness Program for Senior Citizens” which was implemented in support of RA 9994 or “Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010.”
One of the initiatives at the forefront of the DOH’s intervention programs seeks to alleviate the burden of pneumonia which is the 3rd leading cause of death due to diseases in the Philippines, next to ischemic heart disease and cancer.
Among those at risk, senior citizens are one of the most susceptible to acquiring pneumonia infection and have a hard time fighting off the disease because of their weakened immune systems. The elderly particularly need protection, one of which is through immunization, to help ensure their health.
In 2016, the DOH launched the Expanded Pneumococcal Immunization Program for Senior Citizens to protect Filipinos aged 60 to 65 years old and make free pneumococcal vaccination more accessible for them through local health centers.
The WHO emphasized that pneumonia vaccines are safe and have significantly reduced the incidence of the disease in many countries.
Vaccines in general have been one of the biggest success stories in modern medicine and is estimated to avert between 2 to 3 million worldwide deaths due to life-threatening diseases each year.
To increase immunization coverage for the elderly and to strengthen confidence in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) -CALABARZON, together with the Province of Cavite led by Governor Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla, the Provincial Health Office of Cavite,and DOH conducted the “Bakunado si Lolo at Lola, Iwas Pulmonya” lecture and free pneumonia immunization for almost 1,000 senior citizens from 16 municipalities and seven cities of the province. The vaccination drive, held under the Expanded Pneumococcal Immunization Program for Senior Citizens, was held at the Trece Martires Provincial Gymnasium.
Dr. Maria Victoria C. Torres, medical officer III and family health cluster head of the Cavite Provincial Health Office, explained during the program that maintaining a healthy lifestyle (exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, etc.), is still the most effective way of preventing the disease combined with protection through vaccination.
“People who vaccinate prevent the likelihood of contracting the infection. It also reduces the transmission of the infection,” Dr. Torres said, adding that pneumococcal vaccine is “also effective against [antibiotic-] resistant strain [of pneumonia].”
The first to be vaccinated in the event’s ceremonial vaccination was Ciriaco B. Angeles, president of the Regional Federation of Senior Citizens Association of the Philippines (RFSCAP).
Chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s (Provincial Board) committee on health, nutrition and population, Cavite 6th District Board Member Kerby Salazar said that together with the committee on elderly, women, family, children and social services, the Cavite local government unit will continue to develop ordinances and programs to ensure that the province’s senior citizens will stay healthy.