Medical and government stakeholders pushing for the overall health and well-being of senior citizens met recently to gather ideas that will help improve flu vaccination coverage and raise awareness on the dangers of influenza among the elderly.
The online orientation was attended by more than 100 participants from various civil society organizations, medical groups, government officials, and sectoral representatives who are all calling to ramp up and expand the flu vaccine rollout among senior citizens.
While the Department of Health (DOH) wants to expand its flu vaccination coverage to include non-indigent senior citizens, Dr. Kim Patrick Tejano, National Immunization Program Manager of the Department of Health (DOH), explained that lack of funds prevents them from doing so.
“Since our program is advocating for a life-stage approach to vaccination, slowly we hope to introduce more vaccines and hopefully we will have more resources to target all our eligible population,” he said.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, convenor of soon-to-be-launched Raising Awareness on Influenza to Support Elderlies (RAISE) Coalition, stressed the need to increase awareness on the importance of flu vaccines among the elderly.
“Dapat talaga mag-raise tayo ng awareness sa ating elderly,” Dr. Bravo said, adding that many of them are afraid to get vaccinated while some cite old age to avoid being inoculated.
“That is where we really need to be together in terms of really becoming proactive. Kasi kung pababayaan mo lang na ganyan ang thinking nila, talagang mahihirapan tayong magbakuna ng mga elderly,” she added.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante, a co-convenor of RAISE Coalition, warned that influenza could lead to life threatening complications for the vulnerable sectors like senior citizens and persons with comorbidities, such as pneumonia and heart diseases.
Dr. Solante said flu increases the risk of heart attack by 3 to 5 times, stroke by 2 to 3 times in the first two weeks of infection. Additionally, he added that flu infection runs the risk of COVID-19 co-infection.
Several groups, headed by the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC), have expressed willingness to help increase awareness among senior citizens regarding the importance of flu vaccines.
“The NCSC will help disseminate the information on when Senior Citizens should get vaccinated. We hope that the coalition, no matter how small or big, will help make more seniors aware. Please help the senior citizens,” said NCSC chairperson Atty. Franklin Quijano.
Bayan Bakuna Coalition, represented by convernor Roderick Alapar, said the group is already doing its part of convincing more senior citizens to get vaccinated against flu amid the influenza season.
“Konti talaga ang mga senior citizens na nababakunahan, lalo na sa panahon ng tag-ulan, kailangan maturukan ng flu vaccine lalo na maraming matatanda na takot sa epekto ng bakuna sa gitna ng pandemya,” Alapar said.
Dr. Dahlia Loyola, Mayor of Carmona, Cavite, suggested that stakeholders should have a representation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to improve access to flu vaccines in the communities.
“Kahit anong awareness campaign ang gawin, iyon pong access sa vaccine ang problema natin. Sana magkaroon tayo ng boses sa ating DILG para mai-remind ang local chief executives na maisama ito sa kasing annual budget,” said Dr. Loyola.
The online orientation served as a prelude to the RAISE Coalition’s launching early next month. The coalition plans to tap lawmakers on possible measures in support of flu vaccination among the elderly and collaborate with the DOH on flu vaccination initiatives at the local level.
The Philippine College of Geriatric Medicine (PCGM) earlier urged the national and local governments to improve flu vaccine coverage for senior citizens and ensure the availability of the latest quadrivalent influenza vaccines.