Health Experts call for Unity to Protect Senior Citizens against Influenza


In a media roundtable discussion organized by the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV) and the Philippine College for Geriatric Medicine (PCGM) held earlier today, health professionals, together with local government units, called on medical groups, government, and stakeholders to create a coalition to champion flu immunization specifically for older adults.

Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Rontgene Solante said it’s about time the country has a whole-of-society approach to better protect older adults against influenza, “We would like to protect this population against exacerbation of other infections. Decreasing hospitalization among this population will also have an implication in decreasing complications like diabetes, stroke, even hip fracture, and cardiac complications. This partnership with the government and private medical societies–these are very important to move forward. This is for the greater good of the population.”

PFV’s Executive Director Dr. Lulu Bravo, who has always championed the health and well-being of senior citizens through vaccination, couldn’t agree more. “Our senior citizens should be aware of the different free vaccines available to them, especially for influenza. In the near future, we might even have new Quadrivalent flu vaccines (QIV) for added protection. This vaccine includes the same strains as the trivalent vaccine (TIV) we’re currently using now, but with an additional B strain. This means the QIV produces a higher antibody response in patients 60 years old and above compared to the TIV. But introducing new types of vaccines, especially to older adults, has been a challenge. We need the support system of the entire medical community, our LGUs, as well as the private and public sector, especially the media to champion flu immunization for older adults,” Bravo said.

According to Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Former President Dr. Remedios Coronel, our older adults are vulnerable to many diseases because of immunosenescence or the lowering of immunity as people get older. It is important that family members and seniors should be immunized against vaccine preventable diseases such as influenza. “Influenza vaccines are safe. It’s very effective in decreasing the severity of hospitalization especially among our older adults with comorbidities”,  Coronel quipped.  Influenza-attributable deaths account for 5.09 deaths every 100,000 persons. It is highest among individuals 60 years old and above in the Philippines.

PCGM President Dr. Eduardo Poblete said the PCGM has recently released statements of support and policy recommendations to further enhance the system in combating influenza, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections among older adults to promote their health and wellness throughout their lifetime.

“We are suggesting a holistic approach to try to promote the health and well-being of all the older Filipino adults by promoting vaccine confidence among the elderly, promoting preventive medicine including fall prevention, vaccination, self-care and maintaining functionality,” Poblete said.

At the local government level, the City of Pasig is beefing up efforts to roll out its flu immunization program for older adults. Pasig City National Immunization Program Medical Coordinator Dr. Angelo Saquitan agrees with the health experts that there is a need to create a coalition to champion influenza immunization for seniors.

“This is for everyone’s benefit. The whole community will benefit if our seniors are vaccinated against the flu. Prevention is always better than cure,” Saquitan said. He reiterated that the vaccines have been tried and tested for years, and are perfectly safe. “I really think a coalition to champion flu immunization for older adults will help increase our flu vaccination rates and better protect our seniors,” Saquitan added.