The Department of Health (DOH) will launch the Expanded Pneumococcal Immunization Program for Senior Citizens. This year, all senior citizens aged 60 and 65 years old can avail of free pneumococcal vaccination in their respective health centers.
The vaccine will comprise of two doses: senior citizens aged 60 years old will be given the first dose and will receive the second dose after a 5-year interval. On the other hand, senior citizens aged 65 years old will receive one dose of the pneumococcal vaccine.
Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness throughout the world. It is caused by a common type of bacteria, the pneumococcus, which can attack different parts of the body. Illnesses caused by pneumococcus include pneumonia, meningitis, middle ear and sinus infections, and a condition called sepsis, which is an infection of the bloodstream. Age related-impairment of the immune system compounded with decrease of physical activity and poor nutrition increase the risk of severe pneumococcal infection.
“Pneumococcal vaccines has been long available in the Philippines, specifically in the private sector. DOH wants to ensure that these are distributed not only to the people who have enough resources to access life saving-medicines and services, but also to our indigent citizens nationwide. This is our goal in attaining Universal Health Care.” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin explained.
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that more than 1.6 million people die from pneumococcal infections every year. It remains a major cause of mortality worldwide. According to latest data from the Field Health Services Information System (FHSIS) of the Department of Health (DOH), pneumonia along with acute lower respiratory tract infections rank as the second leading cause of morbidity among Filipinos in 2013.
Statistics from the DOH also consistently point to pneumonia as one of the leading causes of mortality among Filipinos along with heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. As such, it is also the leading vaccine-preventable death in the country.
Immunization with pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects people from invasive pneumococcal infections. The WHO recommends the use of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine for the elderly and other risk groups.
In 2011, DOH issued Administrative Order 2011-0018 which states the implementing guidelines on influenza or pneumococcal immunization for indigent senior citizens. In this program, DOH procured pneumococcal vaccines and administered for a single dose to all indigent senior citizens. Since 2011, a total of 1,409,957 senior citizens were vaccinated with pneumococcal vaccine.
“We can avoid complications, hospitalization, and even death if we choose to equip ourselves with our available medicines today that we are fortunate to have in this generation. We are encouraging our senior citizen to visit our nearest health facility and avail the free pneumococcal vaccine.” Garin concluded.