Government and advocates urge senior citizens to get pneumonia vaccination

June 29, 2023

Share this article


Bakunado si lolo at lola

Even before COVID-19 posed a severe health risk among senior citizens, pneumonia has already been affecting the elderly.  

In the new normal, pneumonia remains a leading cause of hospitalization and death among the elderly and people living with chronic disease. While the severity of pneumonia can range from mild to life-threatening, it is most severe and fatal for infants and children, adults over 65 years old, immunocompromised individuals, and people living with chronic health problems.

Speakers during the recently held Pandesal Forum (from left to right), Mr. Gerald John A. Paz, Senior Health Program Officer Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, Department of Health (DOH); Dr. Allandale Nacino, Medical Officer IV Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, DOH; Dr. Arthur Dessi E. Roman, Medical Specialist III and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine; Mr. Samir M. Manzanilla, Project Development Officer IV, National Commission of Senior Citizens; Wilson Lee Flores, discussion moderator.

And in spite of the looming threat of COVID-19, pneumonia remained the seventh leading cause of death in the Philippines in 2021.

This is an unfortunate reality, mainly because pneumonia is a vaccine-preventable disease. It threatens Filipino families due to the lack of awareness about the disease, with only a small segment of the population vaccinated against pneumonia.

To address this gap, the national government, the medical community, senior citizen advocates, and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), with the support of healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, are working together to spread awareness about pneumonia and various programs available for Filipinos to help prevent the disease.  

Of pneumonia and pandesal 

Pneumonia was the hot topic at the latest Pandesal Forum hosted by Wilson Flores titled, “Bakunado si Lolo at Lola, Iwas Pulmonya”. A distinguished panel of experts discussed the prevailing challenges around pneumonia and shared insights on strategies to prevent and manage this deadly disease. 

The key to averting deaths and complications from pneumonia is better safety and prevention measures, says Dr. Arthur Dessi E. Roman, Medical Specialist III at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). One of the most effective ways to stop pneumonia in its tracks is still through pneumococcal vaccination. 

“We have to get over this misconception that vaccines are just an additional expense,” Dr. Roman further explains, especially in light of the free vaccination programs of the national government. He added that pneumonia prevention through vaccination will not only prevent the disease itself, but can also prevent hospital and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions. Vaccination safeguards the quality of life of the elderly, added Roman, “It is better not to get the disease at all since even a person survived from pneumonia, we cannot guarantee that they’ll go back to their baseline functionality.” 

“Pneumococcal vaccination is included in the National Immunization Program (NIP) of the DOH,” reminds Dr. Allandale Nacino, Medical Officer IV at the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau (DPCB) of the Department of Health (DOH). 

“The goal of the DOH with the National Immunization Program (NIP) is to cover the pneumococcal vaccination of Filipinos across different life stages—from children, to adults, to the elderly. As such, there are free pneumonia vaccines for infants and seniors alike,” explains Dr. Nacino.  

pneumonia senior citizen

Dr. Arthur Dessi E. Roman, Medical Specialist III and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine; Mr. Gerald John A. Paz, Senior Health Program Officer Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, Department of Health (DOH); Dr. Allandale Nacino, Medical Officer IV Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, DOH; Mr. Samir M. Manzanilla, Project Development Officer IV, National Commission of Senior Citizens; Wilson Lee Flores, Pandesal Forum moderator.

As part of its advocacy to ensure the effective implementation of various programs and services for senior citizens, the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) joins the national government and the medical community in this campaign to raise awareness about the urgency of pneumonia vaccination, especially among senior citizens.  

“Access to quality and affordable healthcare is important. As an organization, we are constantly looking for ways to make the well-being of every senior citizen our topmost priority,” says Samir M. Manzanilla, Project Development Officer IV at the NCSC. 

Learning from the experiences of the senior citizens whom they serve, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCSC is here “to advocate and raise awareness that vaccines are safe and can save lives,” adds Manzanilla.     

The burden of pneumonia 

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding pneumonia, which get in the way of preventing and treating the disease. Pneumonia is primarily a lung infection caused by various organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. As such, you can’t get pneumonia simply from overfatigue, sweating, or getting caught in the rain, which are common misconceptions among Filipinos. 

When the airways of the lungs get infected, fluids or pus fill up the insides of the alveoli, or the tiny air sacs where the lungs and the blood exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide when we breathe in and out. When the alveoli get clogged up due to infection, oxygen cannot properly enter the lungs, causing a host of difficulties and complications.

Since we need to breathe to survive, any infection that affects the lungs can be life-threatening. This is also why pneumonia remains a leading cause of hospitalization and death, especially among the elderly.

Aside from the personal challenge of living with the disease, pneumonia also burdens national health systems. According to data from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), a total of 737,659 people sought medical assistance and claims due to pneumonia in 2019. This translates to around PHP10.64 billion worth of medical aid and claims given to patients and families living with pneumonia.

Pneumonia prevention through vaccination

Pneumococcal vaccines have been around since the 1980s and studies show that they safe and effective to be administered to infants, children, and older adults alike. Despite widespread availability, pneumococcal vaccination coverage in the Philippines is still at around 20% of the total senior population.

When one is immunized against pneumonia, they may experience lower severity of the lung infection, thereby helping to increase the chances of survival from the disease and reducing the likelihood of hospitalization.

Alongside aging comes the rising need for more robust and proactive healthcare protection. However, the elderly are not the only population vulnerable to pneumonia.  

Children who are two years old or younger, individuals with weakened or suppressed immune systems, and people with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney problem, among others, are also at risk of contracting the severe infection. The good news is that pneumococcal vaccination can be safely administered to these individuals. 

For those wary of the side effects of vaccination, pneumococcal vaccines have little to no side effects. In rare instances, side effects may include pain and swelling over the injection area. As vaccines help the body create antibodies to fight off infection, some might experience slight fever and flu-like symptoms after immunization.

Free pneumonia vaccination for senior citizens 

Pursuant to the Department of Health (DOH) Memorandum No. 2020-0384, local government units (LGU) and barangay health centers (BHC) are to provide essential health services to senior citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes continued immunization against influenza, pneumonia, and COVID-19.

Essential health service delivery included a mix of door-to-door (D2D) visitations and fixed-post (FP) stations at health centers, rural health units (RHU), and barangay health stations (BHS).

As per the DOH, all senior citizens aged 60 years old and above must receive the following vaccines for free: one dose of pneumococcal vaccine throughout their lifetime, and one dose of the flu vaccine every year. To ensure safety, all eligible senior citizens must be assessed and interviewed before their immunization to determine any contraindications. 

The national government, through the DOH, is ramping up its immunization programs to help protect the elderly and is encouraging all eligible senior citizens to avail of the free pneumococcal vaccination from their local health centers.

Nacino, appealed to the elderly not to hesitate to visit the nearest health center to inquire about receiving a free pneumococcal jab. “Pwede pong gawin ng ating mga kababayan is pumunta po sa ating mga centers, syempre yung iba malalayo yung mga hospitals so kung ano yung pinakamalapit na health facilities, kung RHU man yan or barangay health stations, they can inquire po the availability of this vaccines.” Adult vaccines, such as pneumococcal vaccines and flu shots, are also now made available in local pharmacies and drugstore chains nationwide and can now be administered by pharmacists.

Meanwhile, a senior citizens group represented by Ciriaco Angeles, President of the Provincial Federation of Senior Citizens Association of Cavite, Inc. (PFSCACI) has expressed its gratitude to health leaders for their commitment to protect the elderly. “We would like to thank the DOH and our local government officials for always taking care of us, and for giving importance to public health programs for senior citizens,” says 

“Pneumonia is no joke, as it remains a leading cause of hospitalization and death among senior citizens. And even if a lot of senior citizens are already online and on social media, many of us still lack vital information about this disease,” adds Angeles. 

Speaking to his fellow senior citizens, Angeles adds, “Huwag mahihiyang magtanong! (Don’t be afraid to ask questions!) Let us strengthen our resolve to learn more about pneumonia and ask our family members, fellow senior citizens, and our local communities about the free pneumonia vaccination in our barangay health centers.”

Our People

MSD gifts back hope and cheer to kids of Kythe Foundation

June 29, 2023

Share this article


MSD and Kythe Foundation

For enterprises of all sizes, giving back is a must. First and foremost, it helps uplift the community they are serving. Secondly, volunteerism can be empowering to the employees themselves, as it allows them to advocate and work for worthy causes, using their time and talent. And for the organization itself, it helps builds trust among stakeholders.

MSD in the Philippines (known as Merck & Co. Inc., Rahway, NJ, USA in the U.S. and Canada) champion volunteerism by encouraging its employees to find ways to give back to the community. Through the global volunteerism and skills share program, MSD Gives Back, employees take an active role to ‘pay it forward’ through participation in programs offered to promote a healthier society, advance education, foster the arts, address the welfare of animals and preserve the environment. 

In 2022, MSD employees in the Philippines reached out to over 200 pediatric cancer patients supported by Kythe Foundation in National Children’s Hospital, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, and Quirino Memorial Medical Center, through MSD Gifts Back to Kythe. True to the spirit of the season, employees and their families donated, dedicated, wrapped and delivered presents- mostly educational toys- to Kythe kids in the abovementioned centers. 

The company has been a long-time supporter of Kythe Foundation, a non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to the health and well-being of children with chronic illness, such as those with cancer. 

“MSD employees in the Philippines, and around the world, are passionate about giving back to their communities. Volunteerism is at the heart of MSD’s culture, and giving back is part of our DNA. We are honored to collaborate with Kythe Foundation and support its mission to help address the fears of children who are going through their cancer journey by promoting a culture of care, that allows children to learn, play and grow” said Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director. 

MSD employees led by Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director, turn over gifts to Kythe Foundation, for distribution across centers in Metro Manila and Cebu

MSD employees are empowered to give back and help build healthier communities by engaging in activities where they can share their skills, time, and resources for the benefit of others. Every year, MSD employees can donate their time and talent to help improve the health and well-being of communities through notable programs such as MSD Gives Back. 

“We at MSD aspire to improve access to health by discovering, developing and providing innovative products and services that save and improve lives. But our commitment to the community goes beyond business practices. We believe that supporting society, people and communities around the world is fundamental to our long-term success. As we serve the community where we have presence, we remain true to our purpose, “patients first,” Riedel added 

In May 2022, Kythe Foundation recognized MSD as a Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year for its continuous support and commitment. The award celebrated the exemplary volunteers from MSD who supported Kythe’s mission of improving the quality of life among hospitalized children with cancer and other chronic illnesses. 

“There is a saying, it takes a village to raise a child and I say, it takes a village to care and to cure a child patient with cancer. That’s what we are in Kythe– we are a village, we are a family.”, said the Kythe Co-Founder Maria Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo.

Kythe provides play, engagement, and psychosocial care to children living with cancer. Play is an important part of children’s development, as it helps them learn new skills and express themselves in a healthy and productive way. In the context of a cancer journey, play can provide children with a sense of control and normalcy during a difficult and uncertain time. It can also help them cope with the physical and emotional challenges of cancer treatment.

In addition to the benefits of play, psychosocial support can also be crucial for children dealing with cancer. This support can take many forms, including counseling, therapy and support groups. It can help children and their families to better understand and cope with the cancer diagnosis and treatment, and provide a safe space for them to express their emotions and concerns. 

Overall, play and psychosocial support can have a significant role in helping children to navigate the challenges of a cancer journey, and can help to improve their overall quality of life during a difficult time. 

“Whenever I see volunteers give off their time, skills and effort, I am always grateful and in awe. They could have chosen more leisure or more fun things and yet they choose to volunteer. We are thankful you make this choice. Not everyone will make that choice. Kythe will not be able to serve as many children, have an impact on so many families, nor grow the seeds of change without you who help Kythe live its mission.”, said the Kythe Executive Director, Dra. Angie Sievert-Fernandez.

Engaging in volunteer work can be an enriching experience for people. Keeping a dynamic employee engagement policy allows MSD to provide employees with opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives, through means of encouraging, empowering children and their families to fight cancer, and letting them know they’re not alone in their journey.

Health Awareness

Stronger Together: Vaccination for all ages multi-stakeholder forum urges PH families to ‘Don’t Wait – Vaccinate’

June 29, 2023

Share this article


Stronger together event

As the world witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination help saves lives. Over the course of the 20th century, improved health outcomes such as increased child survival, reduced deaths due to infectious diseases, and longer life expectancies may be attributed through immunization.

To bring to focus the importance of immunization in the lives of Filipino families and to raise awareness on the long-term benefits of immunization to society, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), in partnership with MSD in the Philippines, held a media forum aptly titled “Stronger Together: Vaccination for All Ages” at the EDSA Shangri-La Manila on March 25, 2023.This media forum is part of the Department of Health’s pre-World Immunization Week activity.

The media forum, hosted by journalist and health advocate Jing Castañeda, kickstarted the countdown to World Immunization Week, a global observance celebrated every last week of April to promote the importance of vaccines for all ages. The theme for this year’s World Immunization Week is “The Big Catch Up,” which highlights the need to prioritize vaccinations that were halted due to the pandemic.

Indeed, people don’t need to wait for World Immunization Week to start raising awareness about the importance of vaccines in safeguarding the health of millions worldwide. As the world learned in recent years, health and safety are interconnected, and no one is truly immune or protected from a disease until everyone is protected from the said disease – so speak to your healthcare professional about vaccination now, especially if you are part of the at-risk population.

Empowering households with vaccine information

During the media forum, scientific leaders such as Dr. Paul Van Buynder from the Australia Immunisation Coalition (AIC), Prof. Tikki Pangestu from the Asia-Pacific Immunization Coalition (APIC), and Dr. Rose Capeding from the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination discussed the value of vaccination for the whole family.

Vaccines may help save lives by preventing certain diseases, reducing direct and indirect health costs on national health systems and households.Vaccines are cost-effective and are one of the core components of preventive health services packages.Thanks to vaccines, children are protected from diseases that were once top killers and disablers worldwide, such as diphtheria, whooping cough, tuberculosis, smallpox, polio, and measles.

More importantly, vaccines may help prevent the spread of disease among family members and neighbors, leading to healthier communities.Additionally, immunization may help prevent the transmission of certain diseases from one generation to another, freeing the next generations from the burden of certain diseases.

Families that get vaccinated together stay healthy together. If one person gets vaccinated, not only are they protecting themselves, but they are also helping protect their families, communities, and future generations. With the help of immunization, Filipino families may enjoy longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives together.

Promoting a life-course approach to immunization

In this multi-stakeholder discussion, other health leaders and experts including Dr. Janis Bunoan – Macazo from the Department of Health (DOH), Prof. Nina Castillo-Carandang, Ph.D from the Department of Clinical Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of the Philippines Manila, Dr. May Montellano from Far Eastern University – Dr. Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation, and Ms. Carmen Auste from Cancer Coalition Philippines and Cancer Warrior Foundation tackled how to build stronger confidence in vaccination across different life stages.

As new vaccines are developed and tested, they will continue to be a vital tool in helping prevent certain diseases for various age groups. A life-course approach to immunization states that access to vaccines and vaccination schedules must align with an individual’s life stage, lifestyle, and the specific risks and vulnerabilities related to these factors.

As such, immunization is not limited to infants. At every life stage—from infancy to adolescence to adulthood—one must receive specific vaccines to protect them from certain life-threatening diseases.Specific vaccines are intended for each family member at every phase of their lives.

For example, it is recommended to secure infant immunization against measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and diphtheria. Meanwhile, for adolescents, it is recommended that girls aged 9 to 13 receive immunization against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer.

While immunization at an earlier age is preferred, adult males and females aged 18 years and up maystill get HPV vaccines to help build protection against HPV-related diseases and cancers.Additionally, pneumonia vaccination is recommended for the elderly and other at-risk groups living with diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.

Building a stronger network for vaccination

The need to create a stronger national healthcare system through vaccination was the focus of the discussion participated by Dr. Arthur Dessi Roman from the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) and Bryan Posadas from the PFV.

For developing countries like the Philippines, good population health is fundamental for social development and economic growth. Vaccination is a vital component of public health programs, and routine immunization forms the foundation of resilient health systems and universal health coverage. Immunization remains one of the most cost-effective methods to help prevent the spread of certain infectious diseases across populations, helping save millions of lives every year.

Aside from safeguarding the health and safety of the population, vaccination is also a source of high investment returns for the government. While the economic benefits of improved health outcomes remain largely underestimated, the yearly return on investment in vaccination alone is between 12% and 18%.

The good news is multiple channels available where patients can get their vaccines. Apart from hospitals and clinics, adults can also visit their local pharmacies to get vaccinated. At the same time, under the DOH’s National Immunization Program, there are free vaccination programs under the local government units (LGUs), especially free pneumonia vaccines for the indigent elderly. Meanwhile, through the School-Based Immunization Program (SBIP),female public school learners in grade 4 who are 9 to 13 years old may avail of the free HPV vaccines from their school or nearest health center.

So, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait—speak to your doctor about vaccination now!

Health Awareness

MSD joins the Philippine National Immunization Conference (PNIC)

June 29, 2023

Share this article


MSD joins the Philippine National Immunization Conference (PNIC)

The Philippines remains at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, underscoring the need to increase vaccination coverage in the new normal.

Based on joint monitoring by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Philippines follows the global trend of reporting lower immunization coverage throughout the pandemic.

Diminished coverage has resulted in measles outbreaks, with the Department of Health (DOH) currently ramping up vaccination efforts to forestall another potential outbreak.

Vaccine hesitancy, fueled by misinformation, remains a concern. Defined as a refusal to accept immunization services despite their availability, vaccine hesitancy was pinpointed by the DOH as a factor in the measles surge and the reemergence of polio in 2019, sparking an intensified immunization campaign to recover lost ground. Hence, healthcare personnel must continue to correct misconceptions about vaccines in general.

During the 23rd Philippine National Immunization Congress (PNIC), Dr. Anelyn Logrono-Reyes, who served as the conference’s overall chair, remarked on how vaccination could have prevented these outbreaks.

“The Philippines has a very low vaccination rate [so] sadly, we had a lot of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dr. Reyes said, as she also confirmed that local studies have shown how vaccine hesitancy is partly caused by “the decrease in confidence in the vaccine itself.”

Mindful of these challenges, this year’s PNIC pushed for routine immunization to improve coverage. It also provided participants with learning opportunities through an updated vaccinology course.

With the theme, “Leaving the Pandemic: Accelerating the Vaccine initiative, Vaccination Practices in the New Normal,” the virtual conference was spearheaded by the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, Inc. (PFV), together with the Philippine Pediatric Society – Southern Tagalog Chapter (PPS-STC), and their partners.

Healthcare professionals from both public and private sectors, patient groups, policymakers, corporate allies, and other vaccine advocates gathered to discuss the vaccination status of the country, disseminate best practices to increase immunization coverage, and explore strategies, and action plans to combat misinformation and strengthen confidence in vaccines, ultimately improving vaccine uptake.

“Normalizing” vaccination: a life-course approach

MSD in the Philippines, a staunch supporter of the annual PNIC, has long advocated for vaccines as a vital aspect of healthcare. 

MSD has continuously developed innovative vaccines for over a century to help save lives and build vaccine-resilient communities. To that end, the company has worked closely with partner organizations and government institutions to inform the public of immunization’s benefits.

As part of its advocacy, MSD shares in the conference’s goal to disseminate updated information on vaccines and vaccination best practices, thus enhancing the public’s awareness of the importance of a life-course approach to vaccination for Filipinos to be protected at all stages of life.

Taking a life-course approach means that immunization schedules and access to vaccination must be responsive to an individual’s age, lifestyle, and specific vulnerabilities or risks to infectious diseases.

Dr. Arthur Dessi E. Roman, Medical Specialist III at the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM) and Vice-Chair of the Infectious Diseases Section at the Manila Doctors Hospital advised that immunization encompass pregnant mothers, newborns, infants, older children, adolescents, adults, and elderly. “There should be a change in the mindset on vaccination…vaccines are not just for kids, they are for life,” Dr. Roman asserted during his talk, “Updates on Adult Vaccination and Catch-Up.”

Protecting adolescents vs. HPV

“Today, vaccines are available to help protect against at least 20 vaccine-preventable diseases. Together, these vaccines may help save the lives of up to 3 million people [globally] every year,” noted Dr. Ma. Emma Alesna-Llanto, a clinical associate professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, in the symposium entitled “Teen Vaccines: Harnessing the Power to Protect.”

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)  is so common that nearly all women and men will get infected at some point in their lives, said Dr. Llanto. She explained that the HPV family of viruses numbers more than 100 types, with different levels of risk. Low-risk types of HPV cause genital warts, while high-risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, the second most common type among women in the Philippines. Other high-risk types of HPV may cause anal cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer, or oropharyngeal cancer (cancers of the mouth and throat).

However, Dr. Llanto said there is a tool for prevention in the HPV vaccine, which is used in over 100 countries and has been available in the Philippines since 2006. She emphasized that the HPV vaccine may help reduce cervical cancer to around 90%. She pointed out that this vaccine is recommended by the WHO and local medical societies like the Philippine Pediatric Society, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, and the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society. As for availability, she also noted that HPV is part of the DOH’s National Immunization Program, with the expanded Adolescent Immunization Program implemented in coordination with the Department of Education and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Dr. Llanto and Dr. Roman emphasized that adolescence is an ideal time to receive the HPV vaccine before the individual becomes sexually active. Dr. Llanto explained that HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact or by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone infected with the virus. Two doses provided at age 9-14 years offer better immunogenicity (or a stronger response against HPV infections) than three doses given to young adults aged 15-26 years, said Dr. Llanto. “For HPV, giving [the vaccine] at an earlier age is the better option,” she added.

Unlocking herd immunity: we’re all in this together

Vaccines may help reduce the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases in the community—even the immunocompromised, or those with an impaired or weakened immune system, said Dr. Elizabeth E. Gallardo, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Louis University in Baguio City. “Immunocompromised persons are more susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases and are at increased risk of severe illness. Therefore, vaccine providers should work together with specialists to improve vaccine coverage rates in this vulnerable population,” she urged.

Immunized individuals may help protect those who are vulnerable through population or herd immunity, said Dr. Llanto. “Herd immunity is especially important in highly contagious diseases such as measles, which requires 95% of a population to be immunized. When immunization rates drop, we can have outbreaks, which we experienced in 2019, with tragic results,” she said.


MSD in the Philippines and The Carewell Community hold wellness talk for cancer patients

June 29, 2023

Share this article


Msd Carewell

Global healthcare company MSD in the Philippines recently collaborated with The Cancer Resource and Wellness (Carewell) Community Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that provides support, education, and hope to persons with cancer and their loved ones, to hold a wellness discussion called Talk to Doc: Well, Well, Wellness! 

The event aimed to enable cancer patients from The Carewell Community, to focus on their overall health and well-being, as they battle the disease. 

MSD turns over wellness packs for cancer patients and caregivers. L-R: Gina Evangelista, Carewell volunteer; Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director, MSD in the Philippines; Oliver Calasanz, Managing Director, Carewell; Marie Ganir, Carewell programs assistant; and Jane Beate, Carewell art instructor

The two-part discussion, which covered physical and mental wellness, was hosted by MSD’s Dr. Orven Dumaoang, and facilitated by MSD Medical team led by Dr. Maan Galang Escalona, together with guest speaker, Dr. Ephraim Leynes. 

Part I. Nurturing the body throughout the journey 

Good nutrition is crucial for patients as it helps maintain a healthy immune system and body weight, reduce side effects of cancer treatments, and improve the quality of life. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide the necessary nutrients to support the body’s healing process. Additionally, adequate hydration is important to prevent dehydration and aid in digestion. 

Dr. Davidson Pastrana highlighted that cancer and its treatments can cause changes in appetite and digestion, making it challenging to maintain good nutrition. Therefore, consulting with a registered dietitian or healthcare provider can help cancer patients develop a personalized nutrition plan to support their recovery.

Dr. Nicole Tenorio discussed how good hygiene, skin care, and bathing are essential for cancer patients to maintain their overall health and prevent infections. Cancer and its treatments can weaken the immune system, making patients more susceptible to infections. Regular hand washing, oral care, and proper wound care can reduce the risk of infection. Cancer treatments can also cause skin dryness, irritation, and sensitivity, making it important to use gentle, fragrance-free products for skin care and bathing. Moisturizing regularly can help prevent skin cracking and infection. Patients should also avoid sharing personal items such as towels, razors, and toothbrushes to prevent the spread of germs. Consultation with a healthcare provider or dermatologist can provide guidance on skincare and hygiene practices for cancer patients.

Regular exercise can benefit cancer patients in many ways. It can improve physical function, reduce fatigue and other side effects of cancer treatment, and lower the risk of cancer recurrence. Dr. Claudio Valdes suggested some forms of exercises to help patients maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, exercise can have psychological benefits, such as reducing anxiety and depression, and improving overall quality of life.

Part II. Nurturing the mind

Dr. Ephraim Leynes, a Family Medicine specialist, addressed mental health issues among cancer patients. He emphasized that mental health is integral in the overall support for cancer patients because a cancer diagnosis can cause significant psychological distress. Counseling, support groups, and other interventions can help patients manage emotions, improve well-being, enhance coping, and improve adherence to treatment and overall health outcomes. Healthcare providers must recognize the importance of addressing mental health issues and appropriately support cancer patients.

It takes a community to support patients through the cancer journey 

Annually, MSD employees worldwide volunteer their time and resources to support and empower communities through the MSD Gives Back program. 

“We at MSD feel honored to support The Carewell Community’s mission of upholding the well-being of Filipino cancer patients and caregivers, by empowering them to lead fulfilling lives, throughout their journey, through MSD Gives Back” said Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director, MSD in the Philippines. 

“This talk on wellness for cancer patients is more than just providing information. It is an opportunity to create a supportive environment where patients can share their experiences, learn from others, and feel empowered to take control of their health. The talk fosters a sense of community among cancer patients and their loved ones, where they can find comfort and strength through shared knowledge and understanding. By coming together in this way, we can help patients navigate the challenges of cancer treatment and improve their quality of life,” noted Oliver Calasanz, Managing Director, The Carewell Community Foundation. 

MSD in the Philippines The Care Community

MSD Gives Back! Employee volunteers prepare wellness kits for The Carewell Community

MSD’s partnership with Carewell in holding the wellness forum for cancer patients is a testament to MSD’s commitment to supporting organizations that promote the health and well-being of communities in need. By organizing events like this, MSD and its partners can empower cancer patients to lead fulfilling lives and provide the necessary resources to improve their overall health and well-being.


MSD in the Philippines reaffirms commitment to end cervical cancer

June 29, 2023

Share this article


Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer type and the second most common cause of cancer death in women of reproductive age (15–44 years) worldwide. The highest incidence and mortality rates are generally observed in countries with the lowest values of the Human Development Index.

In the Philippines, cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women. The Philippines recorded almost 8,000 new cases of cervical cancer and more than 4,000 deaths in 2020 alone.

Yet cervical cancer is largely preventable through both vaccination and screening for precursor lesions, with appropriate follow-up and treatment.

As the country celebrates Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, reaffirms its unwavering commitment to empower women to be in-charge of their health by strengthening its disease awareness efforts and education campaigns to combat cervical cancer. 

As a company that puts patients at the center of what we do, MSD is committed to playing a leading role in the fight against cervical cancer. They believe that through patient empowerment and health literacy campaigns, alongside a steadfast dedication to prevention, early detection, and treatment, they can eliminate this devastating disease and improve women’s lives worldwide,” said Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director of MSD.

MSD is also working with national and local stakeholders from both public and private sector to achieve the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global strategy towards eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem. This strategy recommends a comprehensive approach to cervical cancer prevention and control. The recommended actions include interventions across the life course.

The definition of elimination of cervical cancer has been set up as a country reaching the threshold of less than 4 cases of cervical cancer per 100 000 women per year.  To reach this threshold by the end of 21st century, WHO has set up the 90-70-90 targets to be reached by 2030 and to be maintained: 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by age 15; 70% of women are screened with a high-performance test by 35, and again by 45 years of age; and 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment. 

Step toward cervical cancer control

The Philippine government has implemented several health programs in support of prevention and control of cervical cancer.

cervical cancer MSD

One of which is the School-based Immunization Program (SBIP) that aims to protect school-aged children against vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2015, the DOH introduced the HPV vaccination program in public schools nationwide. It has since expanded to benefit female Grade 4 students aged 9 to 13 years old to help protect them against HPV infection, cervical cancer, and other HPV-related diseases. This age group benefits the most from the vaccination program as they are not yet exposed to HPV, which usually results from sexual activity. 

For Academic Year 2022 to 2023, the DOH has procured 1.2 million doses of HPV vaccines, which will benefit 600,000 students nationwide. And with the return to face-to-face classes, it is only timely and prudent to reinstate the HPV vaccination program to help protect our students from HPV infection, cervical cancer, and other diseases caused by HPV. 

The Department of Health has also been promoting the availability of free cervical cancer screening in all trained Rural Health Units, which aims to increase early detection and treatment of cervical cancer. Additionally, the government has ensured the availability of cryotherapy equipment in every province (81 provinces) to provide effective treatment for pre-cancerous lesions.

The DOH has implemented the Cancer Assistance Fund (CAF) which aims to provide support for patients living with cancer and for cancer survivors. implementation of the CAF shall cover outpatient and inpatient services including but not limited to diagnostics, therapeutic procedures, medicines, treatment and management services, and other care-related components of cancer. The CAF is designed to complement existing financial support mechanisms in public and private facilities. Cervical cancer is one of the 8 priority cancer types eligible to be financed by the CAF.

“These initiatives by the government show commitment to addressing the challenges posed by cervical cancer and improving the health outcomes of their citizens. It is important for women to take advantage of these programs and to prioritize their health by seeking early detection and treatment, “ noted Dr. Mary Ann Galang-Escalona, Country Medical Lead.

Beyond Cervical Cancer Awareness Month 

MSD is committed to improving cervical cancer care for Filipino women, from prevention to treatment, and is working with the government and key stakeholders to ensure sustainable funding, broader access, and trust in public-private partnerships for healthcare. 

This includes support in strengthening vaccine confidence through the National Immunization Program. MSD has launched a local campaign called #TimeToTalkAboutHPV, which aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding HPV and emphasize the need for prevention to avoid the physical, emotional, and economic burdens of HPV-related diseases. 

MSD is also working with private and government partners to push for the proper implementation and funding of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) through its cancer advocacy campaign, Hope From Within. 

“At MSD, we believe that every Filipina, regardless of socioeconomic status, should have access to the latest and most innovative medicines, vaccines, and therapies. We are committed to working with healthcare stakeholders and government agencies to ensure equitable access because health equity is essential to building a better, healthier future for all,” emphasized Karlo Paredes, Corporate Affairs and Market Access Director.

Initiatives to raise awareness and empower people to action do not stop on cervical cancer awareness month. In August, MSD will be hosting the 12th HPV Summit which is a platform for engagement for all sectors sharing the goal of battling HPV and cervical cancer in the Philippines. For more than 10 years, it has rallied support for promoting the health of Filipinos of all ages, particularly towards eliminating HPV and HPV-related diseases. This year’s theme “One Community Against HPV” aims to highlight the contribution of various sectors of society in protecting the Filipino population from cervical cancer.

Health Awareness

Cervical cancer lecture spotlights on achievable WHO targets through multimodal treatment

June 29, 2023

Share this article


Cervical cancer lecture

The Philippine College of Surgeons Cancer Commission Foundation, together with Cancer Coalition Philippines and Philippine Cancer Society, held a 2-day Philippine National Cancer Summit to discuss with healthcare providers and esteemed medical professionals the ways to bridge the gaps in cancer care in the Philippines. 

Dr. Efren Domingo, Gynecologist – Oncologist, discusses the state of cervical cancer detection, care, and treatment in the Philippines

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, breast, lung, colorectum, liver, and prostate cancers are the top cancer cases in the Philippines in 2020. These, and other types of cancers, result in over 92,00 deaths.  Apart from the top 5 cancer types, cervical cancer is another contributor to this number.

Cervical cancer ranks second among the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. There is a risk of cervical cancer when a female is infected with HPV human papillomavirus (HPV). The immune system usually detects and controls this infection. However, when the body’s immune system is weakened, high-risk HPV infects cells and could turn into pre-cancerous cells. In a year, an estimated 7, 897 cases of cervical cancer among women of all ages, and 4,052 of those can result in death. 

To reduce these numbers, the World Health Organization (WHO) created the Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative where 90% of girls must be fully vaccinated against HPV by 15 years old; 70% of women must be screened twice within 5 to 10 years, and 90% of women with pre-cancer are treated and 90% of women with invasive cancer are managed by 2030. 

In line with this, Dr. Efren J. Domingo, Gynecologist-oncologist, discussed in a lunch symposium sponsored by healthcare company MSD in the Philippines, the state of cervical cancer detection, care, and treatment here in the country in his lecture, “Pursuing the Goal of Cervical Cancer Elimination in the Philippines.” 

He shared about how the age of sexually active females became earlier over time. In his presentation, it was discussed that female adolescents ages 14 to 15 are already sexually active, therefore having a higher chance of encountering HPV. HPV 16 and 18 are two of the high-risk HPVs commonly responsible for cervical cancer.

Early protection and screening are essential to achieving a higher survival rate. A study has shown how the HPV vaccine has greatly reduced the incidence of cervical cancer by up to 90% in a sample size of 1.7 million women under age 17. Dr. Domingo also shared how early detection also allows oncologists to implement the best solution for early-stage cancer up to Stage IIA: surgery. This procedure greatly reduces the capacity of the cancer to spread to the lungs, liver, and brain. 

“In the Philippines, because of our national handicap, our coverage of vaccination is still far from ideal. We still have to reach out to the younger women to capture the best protection before they meet the culprit virus,” Dr. Domingo mentioned.

Furthermore, based on Dr. Domingo’s lecture, while the government started vaccinating women in 2006, the country’s archipelagic nature hinders organizations and medical professionals from reaching out to more women across the country. Expenses for the vaccine and testing also come from the patient, which influences them to no longer get the vaccine and test. 

As such, women frequently consult late and are later diagnosed when the cancer has become advanced.

Fortunately, there is hope for advanced, recurrent cancer. 

Chemoradiotherapy is the standard regimen in treating advanced cancer. It is a combination of chemotherapy where the oncologist administers cancer-destroying drugs, and radiotherapy, where radiation is used to destroy cancer cells. 

The GOG 240 trial has also shown significant results in the advanced cancer patient’s survival rate. In the GOG 240 trial, using various immunotherapy drugs together showed significant results in the patient’s survival rate. 

Since multi-modal treatment has a high efficacy rate, Dr. Domingo also shared how the implementation of immunotherapy, in addition to chemoradiotherapy, could bring hope to advanced cervical cancer patients. 

“First-line treatment should be the present treatment for those with the complicated disease profile,” Dr. Domingo stated. He added that immunotherapy, together with chemoradiotherapy, should be used as first-line treatment in cases of advanced recurring cancer. 

“From the 1999 clinical announcement of a chemotherapy drug as the most remarkable achievement against cervical cancer, the next event happens now in our time. We are lucky to witness it. Together with chemotherapy, the administration of immunotherapy will achieve probably the biggest hope of a cure for the patients of this otherwise hopeless disease.” 

Dr. Domingo believes that with this line of treatment, WHO’s 90-70-90 goal by 2030 is achievable through the support of the government and the private sector. This, along with the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Law and the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, cervical cancer vaccination, screening, and treatment for all Filipino women is a plausible future.


Forum highlights public-private partnerships as key to a whole-of-society approach to immunization

June 29, 2023

Share this article


In celebration of World Immunization Week 2023, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), in partnership with MSD in the Philippines and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), mounted a joint committee meeting on “Creating a Disease-Free Society through Immunization” at the Robert Sears Hall, AmCham Office, on April 28, 2023.        

(From L-R: Mr. Martin Crisostomo, Pharmaceutical Committee Co-Chair, AmCham Philippines; Rep. Tony Golez, Vice Chairperson, Committee on Health, House of Representatives; Dr. Romel Lacson, Country Director, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Philippines; Mr. Andreas Riedel, President & Managing Director, Merck Sharp & Dohme Philippines; Mr. Noel Borlongan, Pharmaceutical Committee Co-Chair, AmCham Philippines; and Mr. Ebb Hinchliffe, Executive Director, AmCham Philippines)

Health is high on the agenda of AmCham Philippines, with two sector committees dedicated specifically to developing healthcare systems in the country: the Pharmaceutical Committee, and the Healthcare and Wellness Committee.

The big catch-up on immunization

“The Big Catch-Up,” the theme of this year’s World Immunization Week, highlights the world’s renewed sense of urgency to get routine immunizations back on track. Three years of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the delivery of vital health services, which include routine immunizations for children and the elderly, especially for vaccine-preventable diseases.

In the Philippines alone, nearly 1.6 million children under two years old failed to receive routine immunizations over the last three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates.

But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines already had low coverage on protective vaccines. Routine immunizations for children typically include vaccination against life-threatening diseases such as polio, measles, and tuberculosis. However, according to reports from UNICEF, the Philippines has one million “zero-dose” children, or children who have never received a single dose of their childhood vaccines. 

This puts them at greater risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, polio, and diphtheria are rising worldwide. 

But all is not lost; with continued collaboration among the national government, healthcare systems, and the private sector, the Philippines can make a disease-free society possible through immunization.   

“One thing we all learned during the pandemic is the importance of vaccinations,” says Ebb Hinchliffe, Executive Director of AmCham Philippines. “It is AmCham’s role to connect—to connect with people, to connect people and businesses, and to connect businesses to the government. This celebration of World Immunization Week is a perfect time to connect, to see how we can all work together to create a disease-free society through immunization.”

Routine immunizations: The most cost-effective investment in public health

“Routine immunization is, by far, the most cost-effective public health intervention there is,” says Dr. Romel Lacson, Country Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Philippines. 

Investments in immunization yield high returns: Lacson explains that for every US$1.00 invested in immunization, there is an estimated US$52.00 return in terms of savings on healthcare costs due to diseases prevented over time. “So it’s important that the investment is there,” he adds.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that the Philippines has the capacity to vaccinate,” shares Lacson. As such, COVID-19 and routine immunization services can be further integrated, so that the same level of urgency and investment directed towards COVID-19 vaccination can also be given to routine immunization for children. “Saving adults from COVID-19 should not come at the cost of children not getting their routine immunizations,” he adds. 

Public-private partnerships: The key to a whole-of-society approach to immunization

public-private partnerships immunization

A panel discussion on how to create a disease-free society through immunization

Seeing firsthand the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the impact of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in communities, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who heads the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, shares that they have been working on several measures and initiatives to promote immunization.

One such measure is the filing of Senate Bill No. 2155, also known as the “Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) Act of 2021”. Once passed into law, the bill will establish VIP as the country’s principal laboratory for conducting virology investigations, research, and technical coordination of the entire network of virologists nationwide.

“The overall goal of the VIP is to help develop vaccines against highly pathogenic emerging viruses,” shares Go. “I am confident that this bill, along with other initiatives that we are pursuing, will help promote the importance of immunization and encourage people to get vaccinated.”

“But we cannot do this alone,” adds Go. “We need the support of all sectors of society, including the private sector, to achieve our goal of creating a disease-free society through immunization.” 

Congressman Anthony Rolando “Tony” Golez, Jr., Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Health at the House of Representatives, echoes this sentiment. “We are past the need to prioritize routine immunization—we need more investments in the manufacturing and production of vaccines to make it more available locally at a lower cost,” explains Golez.

This presents a golden opportunity for the private sector, especially vaccine manufacturers like MSD in the Philippines. Golez proposes creating a consortium of local and international pharmaceutical companies to create a robust ecosystem for vaccine manufacturing in the Philippines.          

Golez is also one of the principal authors of Republic Act No. 10606, also known as the “Universal Health Care (UHC) Act”, which aimed to ensure that all Filipinos will secure health insurance coverage from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). 

A former rural physician, Golez also filed House Bill No. 5452, also known as the “Service to Country of Physicians Act”, which requires new doctors to render six months of medical services in the countryside as a pre-requisite to getting a medical license. This will also help increase human resources for health in local government units (LGUs) to improve service delivery, supervision, monitoring, and evaluation.

Mr. Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director of MSD in the Philippines talks about the importance of collaboration in addressing gaps in immunization

“At MSD in the Philippines, our focus is to collaborate and raise awareness about the importance of vaccination,” says Riedel. “We want to emphasize the importance of collaboration between the private and the public sector, and, indeed, we have many opportunities to collaborate.”

“It’s also an invitation for the members of AmCham and the media to continue to partner with different stakeholders to be an effective channel to educate the population and counteract misinformation around vaccination,” adds Riedel.

Health Awareness

‘Together for Health’ forum highlights multisectoral collaboration in advancing patient-centric healthcare

June 29, 2023

Share this article


The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), in partnership with MSD in the Philippines and AC Health, hosted a media enablement session titled “Together for Health,” which seeks to help deepen journalists’ appreciation of relevant healthcare issues and the importance of making health topics more accessible to the broader public.

Partnerships for health continue to be essential in managing ongoing challenges, anticipating and addressing health-related issues, and providing new opportunities to encourage health-seeking behaviors and contribute to the population. ‘Together for Health’ underscores the importance of multisectoral collaboration in pushing for continuous progress in healthcare during and beyond the pandemic.

The event gathered renowned scientific experts, health leaders and decision-makers, and patient groups to provide insights and share their perspectives through an interactive panel discussion. Hosted by broadcast journalist and health and family advocate Jing Castaneda, the session will address current trends, the impact and lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare, and insights on the way forward.

As the COVID-19 pandemic winds down and the world moves toward an endemic phase, the event aims to remind the public not to lose their newfound appreciation for their health.

“As we navigate the post-pandemic era, we encourage the media to be our allies in promoting health literacy. Together, we can complement the efforts of our partners at the Department of Health in advancing medically verified health information which can empower patients and create healthier communities. We believe that we can achieve this through collaborations and by making healthcare a national agenda,” added Teodoro Padilla, PHAP Executive Director.

The health forum also tackled the significance of health literacy, highlighting the need for patients to access, comprehend, and apply health information and services. It is essential to be mindful of one’s health as part of daily life, not solely when seeking medical attention. It is in this regard that health literacy can aid in preventing health issues, safeguarding one’s health, and managing health problems effectively. Encouraging multi-stakeholder collaboration is vital in promoting health literacy to empower patients and establish healthier communities.

“We recognize and support the role of media in informing, educating, and guiding Filipinos, especially in times of crises. By providing accurate and comprehensive health information, we can inspire people to take charge of their health and demand better healthcare policies,” said Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director of MSD in the Philippines.

Experts suggest three major changes to learn from the pandemic and promote better public health: revisiting and strengthening public health systems, prioritizing universal health coverage, and implementing holistic policies that prioritize health as part of the national agenda.

“Collaboration across different sectors is key in ensuring that healthcare services are accessible and affordable for all Filipinos. Through partnerships, we can create innovative solutions and bring quality healthcare closer to communities in need. We look forward to working with our fellow healthcare advocates in achieving our shared goal of improving healthcare for all,” said Paolo Borromeo, AC Health CEO and President.

With the pandemic now three years in, it is an opportune time to evaluate successes and continue to improve healthcare delivery for Filipinos. Sharing lessons learned and engaging media practitioners will help combat misinformation and build resilience.

Health Awareness

More than just another Jab: The role of vaccines in helping prevent certain diseases

November 7, 2022

Share this article


Vaccines have had a significant positive impact on human health. Their administration has led to a drop in the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases that were historically fatal to millions. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the world was reminded of the vital role that a single vaccine plays not just for one’s health but for the well-being of populations around the globe.

“COVID-19 vaccines are one of the most incredible medical advances in history. Unfortunately, many people do not appreciate the level of importance of vaccines. These vaccines will be the solution, the way for us to end this current pandemic,” said Dr. Melvin Sanicas, Infectious Diseases Global Health Specialist and Ten Outstanding Young Men 2021 Awardee.

This year’s World Immunization Week theme, “Long Life for All,” highlights that we have a part in promoting the use of all available vaccines to help protect people of all ages against disease.

In line with this year’s theme of ‘Long Life for All,’ the ImMUnity Team of the Mu Sigma Phi Medical Sorority, University of the Philippines-Manila College of Medicine (UPCM), held a webinar entitled ImMUnization: A Passport to Longevity. This brought focus on the relevance of immunization through the ages and for all ages. The event was organized by the UP Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, the Mu Sigma Phi Foundation, and healthcare company MSD in the Philippines.

Keeping its commitment to promoting vaccine confidence alongside the health community, MSD actively engages in multi-stakeholder collaborations, such as the advocacy partnership with UPCM – Mu Sigma Phi Medical Sorority, Inc., to address the challenges of vaccine hesitancy and emphasize the importance of a life-course vaccination. MSD also supports campaigns that aim to enhance vaccine confidence by communicating the value of immunization in helping save lives and preventing vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks.

A life-course approach to immunization

Vaccination programs often focus on distinct life stages, such as childhood immunization, but evidence supports a life-course approach where vaccination is given throughout an individual’s life. The life-course approach to vaccination stems from the simple fact that the risk of infectious diseases extends far beyond childhood and into old age. With this life-course vaccine approach, not only will individuals reap the benefits, but it will also have a favorable impact on public health and socioeconomics.

The National Immunization Program (NIP) of the Department of Health aims to provide Filipinos access to routinely recommended vaccines. It also aims to help reduce morbidity and mortality among children against the most common vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) like tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and measles. The program currently provides vaccines against VPDs for newborns, infants, older children, pregnant women, and senior citizens.

The government’s vaccination services are set to continue with adaptive guidelines to help protect vulnerable age groups like senior citizens, who are more prone to acquiring pneumococcal diseases. It is also stipulated under RA 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” that indigent senior citizens are entitled to free vaccinations for pneumonia and influenza.

“Please ensure children have the right vaccination because they are our future. Let’s give them a long and fruitful life in a country where vaccination is at the forefront of our health delivery system in previous years,” Philippine Foundation for Vaccination Executive Director Dr. Lulu Bravo emphasized.

Vaccine matters

Despite the evidence of health gains from immunization programs, some groups have always resisted vaccines. Dr. Bravohoped addresses this by highlighting the importance of vaccines and sharing practical tips on how to deal with vaccine hesitancy.

“Vaccines do not kill. Misinformation and disinformation kill,” Dr. Bravo emphasized. She stressed that communication plays an essential role in fighting vaccine hesitancy and relaying the message about how vaccines work for our health and the community.

Building vaccine confidence and a more resilient health system require addressing the stigma surrounding vaccination, which prohibits many people from getting the vaccinations that will help protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Engage with the hesitant people. There is no single solution. We must understand their motivation. People need to be listened to, and vaccination framed in a way that it matters to them,” she encouraged. “You can help by positively shaping public perception of the benefits of immunization. Increase awareness of the burden of diseases in life and the economy. Dispel myths and rumors on immunization.”

The Mu Sigma Phi Medical Sorority (MSPS) also helped spur awareness about the benefits of vaccines through a social media campaign on TikTok. “Social media is an important tool in our arsenal to educate and urge Filipinos, especially the youth, about vaccination. Through this campaign, we hoped to engage them in this popular platform and emphasize how vaccines help save lives,” shared Ron Villas, MSPS Service Committee Chairperson.

Meanwhile, Dr. Beverly Ho, Director IV of the Department of Health, Health Promotion Bureau, enumerated the government’s programs and campaigns to promote the acceptance and usage of vaccines. “Vaccines may offer protection from vaccine-preventable diseases across life stages. Among the vaccines provided for free under the National Immunization program include vaccines against tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, polio, pneumonia, measles, mumps, and rubella.

Dr. Ho underscored that routine immunization is the foundation for strong, resilient health systems and universal health coverage. “However, we also want to inform the public that routine immunization is only a part of the overall health program of the government, and there is still a need for regular consultations at your local health centers.”

Dr. Ho further emphasized that “immunization is just one of the basic health services that infants, children, teenagers, women, and senior citizens need, and part of the department’s catch-up immunization program is to vaccinate at least 80% of the remaining 1,100,000 infants who missed their routine immunization in 2021 due the pandemic.”

Having a resilient and sustainable immunization system depends on building vaccine confidence. Hence, stronger collaboration among stakeholders plays a crucial role in raising awareness about how vaccines may help protect oneself, one’s family, and the community from vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as emphasizing vaccines’ importance at all stages in the pursuit of building a healthy citizenry.

This article was originally published in