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1.4M senior citizens to get free pneumococcal vaccines

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) will launch this year its expanded pneumococcal immunization program that will provide free pneumococcal vaccination for 1,470,903 senior citizens aged 60 and 65 years old.

Senior citizens aged 60 years old will receive two doses of the vaccine, with the second dose to be given after a 5-year interval, while those aged 65 years old will receive one dose of the vaccine.

"[We] made it programmatic and systematic. Once you reach 60 years old, first dose, then at 65 years old, second dose. [On their] birthday month, seniors can go to [their] rural health unit," Health Secretary Janette Garin told Rappler in a text message.

The health department allocated P503 million ($10.77 million) for the purchase of the vaccines, which senior citizens can get from their respective health centers nationwide.

Garin said the vaccination has been included in the country's regular immunization program. (READ: FAST FACTS: What benefits are senior citizens entitled to?)

"We can't protect the population if we do selective vaccination. No herd immunity will be produced so even if vaccinated, can still get sick. Seniors can transmit to children and vice versa, so we vaccinate both young and old against pneumonia," Garin explained.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said pneumococcal diseases are a common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with infections ranging from middle ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and sepsis.

Rates of disease and death are higher in developing countries, the WHO said, and the disease is most common among young children and the elderly.

Citing the WHO, the DOH said more than 1.6 million people die from pneumococcal infections every year.

"Age related-impairment of the immune system compounded with decrease of physical activity and poor nutrition increase the risk of severe pneumococcal infection," the DOH said in a May 20 statement.

In the Philippines, data from the health department's Field Health Services Information System suggested that pneumonia, along with acute lower respiratory tract infections, ranked in 2013 as the second leading cause of morbidity among Filipinos.

Pneumonia is also one of the leading causes of death among Filipinos and the leading vaccine-preventable death in the country. (READ: What urbanization, aging population mean for PH)

The health department said a total of 1,409,957 senior citizens have been given the pneumococcal vaccine since 2011.

According to the DOH, immunization with pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine – a vaccine recommended by the WHO "for the elderly and other risk groups" – serves as protection from "invasive pneumococcal infections."  Rappler.com

$1 = P46.69

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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