MEDICALLY REVIEWED

Phillipines’ Department of Health To Vaccinate 200,000 Bicol Senior Ctizens Against The Flu

bicol vaccine flu

The Bicol Region’s Department of Health is encouraging senior citizens of Legaspi City to receive vaccinations for enhanced defence against diseases, particularly pneumonia and influenza (flu).

During an interview, Dr. Ernie Vera. announced their goal to vaccinate 200,000 people aged 60 and older in Legaspi City. He is the regional director of DOH-Center for Health Development-5 (DOH CHD Bicol),

Increase of Flu-like illness in the country

According to the Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH), there has been an increase of 45% in influenza-like illness (ILI) this year compared to the last. From January 1 to October 13, authorities recorded a total of 151,375 ILI cases. This marks an increase from last year’s count of 104,613 cases.

Factors that Affected the Increase

At a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing last Wednesday, Dr. Rontgene Solante pointed out that the surge in ILI cases is due to the presence of both influenza A and influenza B. He is an infectious disease expert and president of the Philippine College of Physicians,

He also stated that external factors affected the surge. This has been observed for the past few years, such as the frequency of cold and rainy weather. Based on DOH, it was observed that case numbers tend to rise during the onset of rainy and colder months. 

Additionally, the intensified surveillance measures for these diseases have contributed to this year’s 45% increase. This marks a shift in the country’s attention away from coronavirus disease 2019.

The Purpose of the Service

Senior citizens typically have a less robust immune system. This makes them more susceptible to various locally endemic viruses, such as the flu. The goal of DOH CHD Bicol is to proactively prevent illnesses among the elderly, so they advise seniors to get a yearly flu vaccine. 

The increase of ILI cases in the Philippines urged the DOH CHD Bicol to encourage the administration of influenza vaccines for senior citizens as they made it their priority to safeguard the vulnerable senior citizens in the community from contagious illnesses, particularly pneumonia and influenza. 

Enactment of the Service

Barangay health centers throughout the region will provide free vaccination services. DOH-5 is also actively collaborating with various local government units, specifically with the Office of Senior Citizens (OSCA), to inform elderly individuals about the complementary health services offered by the health agency. This is also accompanied by the utilisation of radio broadcasts to spread the word, informing people that these services are readily available in their respective barangays.

Risks of Influenza-like Illnesses

Dr. Wilfredo M. Tayag Jr. RMT, a licensed General Physician, imparted his knowledge about the contributing factors that lead to the possible increase of ILI cases in the Philippines, saying that that various factors are causing it. He said, “Documented influenza risk factors are related to the following:

    • Individual characteristics such as age (higher risk of infection for younger population, higher risk of complication and mortality for older age), and immunocompromised state (immunodeficiency, pregnancy, chronic medical conditions, and respiratory diseases).
    • Individual’s profession (being in the medical field, hence greater exposure)
    • Individual’s environmental factors

“For this year, I think one factor is the exposure to COVID where the virus somehow acts additively or synergistically with other respiratory bacteria and viruses in weakening the immune system,” He added.

Best Prevention

Dr Tayag Jr. also highlighted the role of vaccination in response to the increasing number of ILI cases. He emphasised, “Vaccination is very important for these respiratory illnesses as it lowers the risk of having a serious illness, possible admission, and death. It is also a very important preventive tool for immunocompromised people and those with chronic health conditions.”

“Vaccination is definitely a cost-effective way of preventing influenza. Priority should be given to those with extremes of age, who are pregnant, and with certain chronic medical conditions. The virus spreads quickly and there are serious risks associated with the flu. Therefore, education and awareness are also very important!” He shared.

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