Health Awareness

It’s #TimeToTalkAboutHPV and chart the path towards a cervical cancer-free Philippines

November 4, 2022

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Let’s stop spreading fake news. We should stop spreading wrong information that cervical cancer immediately means a death sentence – it is not!” 

This is the appeal of the panel of doctors and patient advocates who spearheaded the freshly held health talk on cervical cancer titled #TimeToTalkAboutHPV: A health forum on HPV prevention and cancer control. Organized by the Cervical Cancer Prevention Network of the Philippines (CECAP), together with the Asia & Oceania Federation of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AOFOG), the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (POGS), and MSD in the Philippines, the media forum aims to serve as a reminder that cervical cancer is preventable with regular screening tests and the HPV vaccination.

Cervical cancer is largely preventable through both vaccination and screening for precursor lesions (pap smear at least every three years and HPV DNA testing for women starting age 30), with appropriate follow-up and treatment. With access to accurate information, preventive services, and routine gynecological care, most cases of the disease can be prevented and successfully treated at an early stage.

In spite of this, cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in the Philippines and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age. Current estimates indicate that every year 7,897 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 4,052 die from the disease.

Cervical cancer develops at the entrance to the uterus from the vagina, and around 99 percent of the cases are linked to HPV or human papillomaviruses. Modes of transmission include sexual contact, skin-to-skin contact, and rarely, through objects exposed to the virus.  

It’s a highly-treatable disease if detected at its early stages. The precancerous stage provides ample window for detection and treatment, and it could take as long as 30 years before it reaches malignancy.  However, it is one of the most common types of cancer and a common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, affecting mostly young, uneducated women from poor countries.  

But more recently, COVID-19 has taken a toll on women’s health as studies have shown a gap in missed routine preventative exams and screening visits. “I think the world has been focused on Covid for the past 2 ½ years, and we have overlooked other health concerns,” said Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, professor and chief of the division of infectious and tropical diseases in pediatrics at the University of the Philippines-Manila College of Medicine. “It is only recently when vulnerabilities to vaccine-preventable diseases are being noticed once again.”     

Things you need to know about HPV 

One life-altering issue that deserves focus is the huge burden that continues to threaten women and men, including teenagers worldwide, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). “HPV is a virus that causes a wide range of diseases,” said MSD executive director of medical affairs for vaccines and infectious disease Dr. Mel Kohn. 

“Apart from cervical cancer, the 2nd leading cancer for Filipinas, HPV can give men head and neck cancer, anal cancer for both sexes, and a variety of less common but also devastating kinds of cancers,” he enumerated. Examples are vaginal and vulvar cancers and penile cancer.

“Genital warts, while it doesn’t kill you, can be quite devastating,” said Dr. Kohn. “It is quite common and very difficult to eradicate. Imagine the psychological toll on the patient. Again, prevention is the best approach here.” 

HPV is common. It is passed from one person to another during sexual contact. “It’s a quiet epidemic, unlike COVID,” he warned. Unlike the measles that have an obvious expression, “you don’t immediately see it when you meet somebody, but it’s there and has been growing rather insidiously.”

The Philippines has a population of 37.8 million women ages 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. About 2.9% of women in the general population are estimated to harbor cervical HPV-16/18 infection at a given time, and 58.6% of invasive cervical cancers are attributed to HPVs 16 or 18.

Although some of the infections from this commonly occurring virus with more than 100 types usually go away on their own, at least 14 types of HPV have been found to be cancer-causing.

The age indication for HPV vaccines is as young as nine years old for both girls and boys. Teens and young adults through age 26 years who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also should have HPV vaccination. Women up to age 45 may be eligible for vaccination after discussing it with their provider.

According to Dr. Ong-Lim, they are targeting the young ones because of their increased susceptibility to infections. 

“That particular age group demonstrates optimal immune response. Also, only two doses are needed to achieve protection,” she shared.

But more importantly, giving the vaccine at a younger age ensures that they are already protected before they become sexually active. “HPV vaccines work best when given before exposure to the virus. We must try to catch that window when the immune system really responds very well to it,”  Dr. Ong-Lim explained. 

Manila Declaration: Call to Action Against Cervical Cancer chair and practicing OB-Gynecologist Dr. Jean Anne Toral mentioned that the young and adult fertility study done recently indicates that the average age Filipina women become sexually active is 18.2 years old. “Giving the vaccine at age 9-15 would be beneficial as there is no life event that exactly pinpoints exposure to HPV apart from age of sexual debut,” she said.

There will be seven to eight out of 10 women who will be exposed to HPV at one point in their life, “But not all women will develop cervical cancer,” Dr. Toral assured. The probability of HPV exposure developing into cancer increases if a patient smokes, is exposed to other sexually-transmitted diseases, and has HIV.

School-based HPV vaccination

As part of the government’s effort to protect children and adolescents from vaccine-preventable diseases, the Department of Health, together with partner agencies, has rolled out the School-Based Immunization (SBI) Program. 

The SBI Program includes measles, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria (MR-TD), and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines that are administered to eligible students in public elementary schools. The inclusion of HPV vaccination in the SBI Program aims to protect young women from cervical cancer later in life, among other diseases associated with HPV. 

Under the DOH’s SBI Program, HPV vaccination is given to grade 4 based on DOH’s recommended age group to receive the two doses of the HPV vaccine, six months apart, for protection against cervical cancer. 

Prior to administering the vaccine, parents’ consent must first be obtained by school officials. That is why vaccination education campaigns usually highlight the role of parents in fortifying the health shield of their children through timely vaccination against diseases.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the HPV vaccination, which was formerly delivered through the SBI Program, is now being shifted as part of the Community-based Immunization to be able to still deliver HPV vaccination to young girls amidst the pandemic to protect them against cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases and cancers.

Towards a cervical cancer-free future 

The elimination of cervical cancer has been defined as achieving an incidence rate low enough for the disease to be considered controlled as a public-health problem; this threshold has been defined by the WHO as fewer than 4 cases per 100,000 women per year.

To accomplish this, every country must reach and maintain three key targets within the lifetime of today’s young generation. The first is for 90 percent of girls to be fully vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) by the age of 15. The second is to ensure that 70 percent of women are screened using a high-performance test by the age of 35 and again by age 45. The final target is for 90 percent of women with pre-cancer to receive treatment and for 90 percent of women with invasive cancer to have their condition properly managed.

Achieving this vision and each of the elimination targets will require a whole-of-society and multisectoral approach to ensure health systems prioritize women and girls. Individuals, families, communities, civil society, and government agencies at all levels have a role to play in championing greater awareness, education, and social support.

Cervical Cancer HPV

Carmen Auste, Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Warriors Foundation Inc. said that the Philippines is among the countries that declared commitment together with WHO to finally eradicate cervical cancer in the country by 2040 and by 2030 worldwide. “There is already one type of cancer that we can delete or ‘block’ like social media,” she humored. “To attain that goal, we must augment HPV vaccine uptake and educate the Filipinos on HPV, vaccines, and cancers caused by HPV,” she said.

Auste mentioned the SUCCESS (‘Scale-up Cervical Cancer Elimination with Secondary prevention Strategy’) project as one of the advocacies recently launched in selected barangays. Led by Expertise France and delivered in collaboration with Jhpiego and the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in support of WHO, the project aims to deploy innovative solutions to fight cervical cancer in four countries, including the Philippines. 

At this critical juncture, we must empower women and rally our neighbors, community leaders, and governments to take action and save thousands of lives. If widespread, high coverage of these interventions can be achieved by 2030 and maintained, research predicts cervical cancer can be eliminated in most countries globally by 2120—avoiding over 63 million deaths of women globally.

Together, let’s commit to women everywhere to end cervical cancer.

This article was originally published on

Our People

MSD in the Philippines harnesses lessons from the pandemic for a more human-centric workplace

November 4, 2022

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Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director of MSD in the Philippines, addresses employees as the company launched its new strategic priorities and hybrid work setup.

Over the last two years of the pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry needed to step up in ensuring access to life-saving medicines and vaccines amid unprecedented challenges. For global healthcare leader MSD in the Philippines, navigating across lockdowns and uncertainties meant that it needed to actively listen to the needs of its own people, and respond through innovative workplace practices and initiatives, so its employees may be well-equipped and enabled to continue delivering impactful healthcare solutions to patients and communities.

MSD President and Managing Director Andreas Riedel explains, “By continuing to build MSD as a great place to work, we aim to empower our employees to deliver our purpose of saving and improving the lives of Filipino patients.”

At the onset of the lockdowns in 2020, MSD in the Philippines stepped up to support its employees, through innovative workplace programs and initiatives. MSD’s HR team worked with MSD’s leadership team to organize daily check-ins with the purpose of monitoring both the employees’ and their family’s health status, set up an employee help hotline, conducted surveys to assess the evolving challenges and needs of its talent, and held weekly virtual townhall meetings to provide information, updates and guidance to the team, to ensure the safety and well- being of the employees, and equip them to continue serving patients, amidst uncertainties.

Dollette Wong, Hospital Acute Care Product Manager shares, “The daily check-ins took getting used to, to be honest. But it truly showed that they were really looking after us. It was a very simple act—communicating with your manager how you and your family are, even on weekends at the height of the pandemic—but it had a good impact on the people. It showed us they really care.”

Power of Speaking Up & Being Heard

Wong describes how families incurred unforeseen additional expenses during the height of the pandemic because everyone remained at home. To augment the employees’ financial resources, MSD provided daily allowance and increased internet allowance allocation “so even though we’re doing our work from home, we were well-compensated and we felt cared for.”

Riedel believes that it is important for leadership to listen and respond to employee feedback, as it builds a culture of trust and openness in the organization. “I’m a strong believer in the power of speaking up to drive innovation. Something we like to point out is that in every employee session that we had, we always left enough time and opportunity for colleagues to ask questions so that we could hear them, understand their challenges, and be quicker in adjusting to new scenarios. The information that we got from these was very important and helped us come up with the right initiatives to support our colleagues during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

A Culture of Agility

For Haydee Antonio, CVM Senior Professional Healthcare Representative, whose fieldwork entailed almost 100% face-to-face engagement, pivoting to fully digital because of the quarantine situation proved quite challenging. Thankfully, prior to the pandemic, MSD was already strengthening its digital capabilities, which means that the field workers had already obtained consent from doctors to connect with them through electronic mail. “That was a great boost for us going into the pandemic already partially digital. We were almost ready for that.”

According to Riedel, MSD takes to heart its responsibility of guiding the organization to lead—and not merely adapt—to ongoing shifts in the healthcare system and the communities it serves. “We are focused and invested on two aspects of agility: the first one is acting with urgency. What this means is that we are reviewing key processes to simplify the way we act and make decisions so we can move faster as an organization. The other aspect is flexibility, really being able to adapt quickly and propel innovation. Our organization encourages our employees to experiment, learn, and adapt because the evolving needs of the patients cannot wait.”

Best of Both Worlds

As the government gradually eased pandemic restrictions in the workplace, due largely to the downtrend of COVID-19 cases after the first quarter of 2021, businesses have started welcoming back employees. MSD moved to a hybrid work model with the aim of keeping employees safe, and thus able to continue serving patients well even amid an ongoing pandemic. With the new policy, office-based colleagues have the option to work 2 or 3 days from the office, and the rest of the week from their homes.

The coming to the office with the implementation of strict health protocols following IATF (Inter- Agency Task Force) guidelines.

To ensure that the first week would feel like a special reunion after almost two years of remote work, the organization prepared welcome activities and gave personalized gift packs for employees coming back to the office. “What I can share from that week is that I saw many, many smiles; I felt their excitement of being together and working closely in person again,” says Riedel.

The company has been receiving favorable feedback from employees on the new hybrid workplace model. On the days they work from home, they value the time saved from commuting, and the chance to spend it with their families. At the same time, they recognize the importance of being together in the office to collaborate effectively, make faster decisions, and be more agile in delivering innovations that matter to patients.

Wellness and High Performance

Another innovative workplace solution recently implemented is the enhancement of employees’ home office. MSD in the Philippines partnered with a leading and global furniture supplier to provide eligible employees with height-adjustable or fixed-height desks and chairs, pre-approved based on high standards of safety and ergonomic quality. The home office furniture provision received favorable feedback, with employees saying it was a demonstration of how the company puts a high value on employees’ health and wellness, so they can succeed while working from home.

Evolved Ways of Working

MSD in the Philippines recently refocused its strategic priorities, to help employees deliver the company’s value to the patients and other stakeholders. Setting the tone from the top, programs like Listening Circles and Huddles– where different groups of employees get a chance to share their thoughts, challenges, and innovative ideas directly with the President of the company, encourage a culture of openness, personal leadership and innovation. Riedel points out that these specific initiatives are “open to anyone who wants to join, because every employee’s unique point of view matters, and contributes to the success of the organization.”

MSD in the Philippines, led by its President and Managing Director Andreas Riedel, together with the country leadership team, launched its refocused strategic priorities and evolved ways of working to better deliver on its purpose of saving and improving the lives of Filipino patients. 

Riedel describes the company’s evolved ways of working: “Through this pandemic and beyond, we are focused on unleashing the power of our people through a corporate culture where employees are supported and encouraged to focus on what matters—the patients, our partners and customers in the health care community, and their own professional and personal well-being.”

“It’s been worthwhile to see our colleagues actively engaged in their own roles, their own growth and welfare even as the world still battles COVID-19,” he says. “All of our employee-focused initiatives and workplace innovations aim to help us understand the needs of our own people so we could better collaborate to fulfill our purpose of saving and improving the lives of Filipino patients.”

This article was originally published in Business Mirror.

Our People

MSD in the Philippines announces Andreas Riedel as new President and Managing Director

August 22, 2022

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MSD in the Philippines (NYSE: MRK), a trade name of Merck & Co., Inc, Kenilworth, NJ, USA, today announced the appointment of Mr. Andreas Riedel as its new President and Managing Director. He succeeds Dr. Beaver Tamesis who has announced his retirement from the pharmaceutical company.

The leadership transition reaffirms the company’s commitment of inventing for life, for Filipino patients. Mr. Riedel brings with him more than 20 years of experience in regional and local roles in emerging markets, including Argentina, Chile, and the Philippines. As chair of Business Sustainability and Board of Directors member for the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines, he was pivotal in shaping the Philippine healthcare environment through programs created for long-term sustainability.

Prior to joining MSD, he was the Country Manager of Pfizer Philippines, where he developed an enterprise-wide strategic plan that improved health outcomes of populations and greatly impacted patients’ lives. With a special focus on Market Access, he laid the foundation for the largest COVID-19 vaccine agreement with the local government. 

His strong background in population health will boost the company’s capability in closing the gap between pharmaceutical innovation and access to groundbreaking medicines, two areas that MSD in the Philippines actively advances. 

New Opportunities Amid Challenges

Andreas Riedel steps into the role as the Philippines is currently experiencing a manifold health concerns in the areas of cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, vaccine-preventable diseases, antimicrobial resistance, and COVID, among others. 

He says that the ongoing pandemic has underscored the need for broader access to quality health care. “One of the lessons that we need to take from this experience is that we need to work together, urgently and unceasingly- with government, industry, health care professionals, and the communities, to find sustainable ways of making quality health care accessible. We’ve learned that the well-being of one affects the health of the broader community.”

Mr. Riedel thanks his predecessor, Dr. Tamesis, for his valuable service to the company. “The progress he has brought through his leadership will serve as our foundation to further MSD’s mission as an innovative organization that always puts patients first.” 

Saving More Lives 

Dr. Tamesis has had an inspirational career in MSD spanning 27 years. In 2013, he earned the distinction of being the first-ever Filipino managing director of MSD in the Philippines since it operated onshore in the 1960s. The cardiologist has since transformed MSD into a force that brings perspectives together to make a difference in the patients’ lives. 

The outgoing managing director will leave behind a strong legacy in urgently important areas such as Diabetes, women’s health, immunization, oncology, and public health education. “It’s been an honor to lead the company in bringing MSD’s innovative health solutions for the Filipino patients,” Dr. Tamesis said. 

With Mr. Riedel as managing director at this critical juncture, MSD in the Philippines will continue to lead in furthering positive health outcomes among Filipinos. Through timely intervention and stakeholder collaboration, the company aims to continue delivering innovative medicines and vaccines to save more lives of Filipino patients. 

This article was originally published in

Health Awareness

Mommy Nins Po shares tips to help ensure vaccine safety for your child

August 22, 2022

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Everyone needs a little help sometimes, especially mothers. Whether you’re a first-time mom or a mother of six, no one can deny that getting help, tips, and advice about your children’s health, safety, and well-being from your friends and families goes a long way. After all, moms always want the best for their children. Mothers know the importance of car seats, baby gates, and other ways to keep them safe. But did you know that one of the best ways to protect your children is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations?

Mommy Nins Po, a make-up artist turned mom influencer, is an active voice on various social media platforms empowering mothers to make informed choices for their children’s health.

“Aside from posting real motherhood stories and behind the scene moments of being a mom, I also like to share the things I advocate for and feel passionate about,” said Mommy Nins Po, a -pro-vaccination advocate.

“I make it a point only to share information I strongly believe in, and I believe that vaccination saves lives,” she added. Mommy Nins also shared that she makes an effort to be responsible with what she shares on social media because she strongly values its importance in positively influencing others.

“Whenever I have my kids vaccinated, my top priority is always their safety. So I try to research from reliable sources, communicate clearly with our pediatrician, and prepare my kids for the vaccination day,” Mommy Nins enumerated.

Reliable vaccine information

Vaccine information is just a click away from many sources. But, as a mom influencer, Mommy Nins shared that she is mindful of only sharing accurate and reliable information.

“I am not a medical expert, so I go to reliable sources of health information,” Mommy Nins explained. “For example, I go to Call the Shots PH on Facebook. They share reliable and easy-to-digest content about child vaccination. I find it very helpful for busy parents like me.”

Vaccinations help protect children from deadly diseases like polio, tetanus, and diphtheria. They also help keep other children safe by eliminating or significantly decreasing dangerous illnesses that may spread from child to child.

Some of the worst diseases affecting children have been significantly reduced or eliminated, thanks to vaccines. Vaccines help protect children and teens from sixteen diseases like polio, measles, rubella, mumps, chickenpox, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus, hepatitis A and B, influenza, diarrheal infections, reproductive cancers, and more.

As misinformation proliferates online, Mommy Nins safeguards her social media platforms through fact-checking and research.

“What’s worse than reading false information is sharing it. So my tip to all moms out there is to be very vigilant about what you are reading and check the sources before you share it. Always credit your source,” she warned.

Pediatrician-parent communication

Mommy Nins also emphasized that communication is essential, whether talking to your  local community health worker or your child’s pediatrician.

“The parent-pediatrician relationship is not a one-way street. We need to give and take. You need to share your child’s information and medical history with your doctor. As a parent, it is our responsibility to know our child’s overall health, and we need to communicate this clearly to our doctor. In return, our pediatrician can provide the proper care to our children to keep them healthy,” she added.

Mommy Nins Po also highlighted the importance of documenting this communication through the child’s vaccination record book.

“It’s important to have your child’s vaccination record with you. It’s free, and you don’t have to buy it. You get it after you give birth. Aside from keeping a record of your baby’s immunization, there is useful information about your next vaccine schedule,” explained Mommy Nins. “For moms like me who don’t know the schedule, this is a great guide for me to know when the next vaccine schedule is.”

For routine vaccines to be effective, children must complete the required doses according to schedule from the time they are born until they are one year old. They must also meet additional doses during supplementary or catch-up vaccination campaigns announced by the Department of Health.

“I learned about catch-up vaccinations from our pediatrician. What’s good with this is you don’t have to start all over again. For example, if your child has received the first dose and you miss the booster schedule, you just need to catch up. That’s why the vaccination record book is very important because it will help you and your doctor plot the succeeding catch-up vaccines,” she shared.

Preparation is key

Vaccine schedules for young children and adolescents are designed with kids’ young immune systems in mind, helping to protect them from preventable diseases as early and safely as possible. The timing and spacing of immunizations are set to work with a child’s immune system at specific ages and times.

Mommy Nins shared these simple and practical tips whenever her son gets a vaccine.

  1. Bring a bag with your kid’s personal belongings like a change of clothes, face masks, or perhaps their favorite toy.
  2. Don’t forget your vaccination card or child’s record book.
  3. Keep your child calm while en route to the doctor and waiting for the shot.
  4. Bring some small treats or rewards.
  5. Prepare first aid medicines like paracetamol, gel patches, and hot-cold compress.

“At this point, my child already knows that if he gets vaccinated, he did something good and is rewarded for it. So I want to instill in him that although vaccination may hurt a little, it’s good for his health,” said Mommy Nins.

Your child is far more likely to be hurt by a vaccine-preventable disease than by a vaccine. All vaccines undergo rigorous safety testing, including clinical trials, before they are approved for public use. Countries will only register and distribute vaccines that meet rigorous quality and safety standards.

“To all moms out there, don’t be afraid because the benefits of immunization far outweigh its minimal side effects. Let’s trust the medical experts. The vaccines given to our kids underwent years of research. Doctors will not give something harmful to our kids,” she said.

As we continue vaccinating now and vaccinating completely, parents in the future may be able to realize a day wherein vaccine-preventable diseases will no longer be around to harm their children.

Call your pediatrician today and ask about the 2022 Childhood Immunization Schedule to protect your kids from vaccine-preventable diseases! For more information, you may visit

This article was originally published in BusinessMirror.

Health Awareness

Advocates call for ‘Kalayaan ng Kababaihan mula sa Kanser’

August 9, 2022

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Filipino women have a long history of fighting for freedom. From the colonial era to contemporary times, they have demonstrated the strength associated with this pursuit. They strive for freedom of speech, freedom of suffrage, and equal rights.

However, as long as diseases like cancer can take hold of their lives, hostage, they are at its mercy, and therefore not completely free. In fact, breast and cervical cancers are among the most common and fatal cancers in women. In 2020 alone, more than 10,000 Filipinas died of breast cancer and more than 4,000 lost their battle with cervical cancer.

That is why, in line with the Independence Day celebration last June, Hope from Within (HFW), a multi-stakeholder cancer advocacy spearheaded by MSD in the Philippines, organized the “Kalayaan ng Kababaihan mula sa Kanser” Women’s Cancers Summit.
The event brought attention to the plight of women afflicted with cancer, empower them, and amplify their voices as they battle the disease head-on.
Hosting the event is Ayn Bernos, a Tiktok content creator and one of the influential voices in women empowerment on social media. Following a breast cancer scare last year, Ayn underwent surgery to remove a lump on her breast. She gave a voice to the concerns, fears, and hopes of Filipina women who sought liberation from these illnesses.

Understanding triple-negative breast cancer
There are many types of breast cancer, one of which is triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). It is considered aggressive cancer because it grows quickly, is more likely to have spread at the time it’s found, and is more likely to come back after treatment than other types of breast cancer. This cancer tends to be more common in women younger than age 40.
Medical oncologist Dr. Josephine Tolentino discussed the signs and symptoms of TNBC, preventive tips as well as diagnostics tests that will help patients identify TNBC. Dr. Tolentino will also highlight the role of a multidisciplinary team (MDT) in providing holistic treatment and care for patients.
The MDT can include a medical, surgical, and radiation oncologist, a pathologist, a radiologist, a breast surgeon, a psychiatrist, and more depending on the cancer condition.
In multidisciplinary care, instead of benefitting from only one expert’s medical judgment, a team of specialists will convene to discuss the most optimal treatment approach for the patient depending on their prognosis. Based on a study, patients with an organized MDT even saw increased 5-year survival rates.
Patients will also learn about several treatment options available for breast cancer which may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments.
In addition to the medical expert, breast cancer survivors Dr. Gia Sison and Jaymee Joaquin shared their personal stories and give hope to cancer patients, while cancer advocate and celebrity Dianne Medina narrated the journey of her mom who succumbed to breast cancer.
Guest artists including R&B singer/composer Quest, and indie-pop duo Leanne and Naara, provided inspiration through their music.

Committed to eliminating cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. Almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPV), an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact.
Although most infections with HPV resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women.
In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed its global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem.
WHO targets: 90% of girls fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15, 70% of women screened using a high-performance test by the age of 35, and again by the age of 45, and 90% of women with pre-cancer treated and with invasive cancer managed.
Dr. Efren Domingo, Vice President of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, informed attendees of the importance of screening, vaccination, and available treatment options for cervical cancer patients.

Providing healthcare access to Filipinas
Equitable access to quality cancer care has been the dream of cancer patients, survivors, and their families. With the passage of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) in 2019, the government can strengthen cancer control in the country, increase cancer survivorship and reduce the burden on families and cancer patients.
This landmark health legislation was designed to provide cancer patients with quality health care services, increase access to innovative treatment options, and provide their families with financial risk protection, among other cancer-relevant items.
Dr. Clarito Cairo, Program Manager for Cancer of the Department of Health (DOH) will share updates on the current and upcoming programs of the DOH that provide cancer care assistance and support to patients. Joining Cairo in this segment is Dr. Cecilia Llave, technical adviser of SUCCESS Jhpiego who will provide insights from the ground regarding cancer care at the community level.
Cancer patients and care groups continue to advocate for the swift and complete implementation of healthcare laws in the Philippines. HFW is committed to renewing hope and reinforcing the fight for Filipino cancer patients through timely and medical-professional-backed information on navigating the cancer patient journey. Resources can be accessed through the Hope From Within website and Facebook page.

Cancer can affect anyone. Each one has a role to support cancer patients and survivors by signing the petition on the urgent implementation of the NICCA, which provides benefits that are needed for their treatment and recovery while allowing them a better quality of life. Make your signature matter. Sign the petition by visiting

This article was originally published in MANILASTANDARD.NET.


MSD in the Philippines recognized by Kythe Foundation

August 8, 2022

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Leading healthcare company, MSD in the Philippines, was recognized as Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year by Kythe Foundation during their virtual Araw ng Parangal at Pasasalamat. 

The event recognizes and celebrates the exemplary volunteers, affiliates, partners, parent leaders, and staff members that continue to support Kythe Foundation and its mission of improving the quality of life among hospitalized children with cancer and other chronic illnesses. The event also marks Kythe Foundation’s 30th anniversary.  

“It is a day for us to appreciate and honor our volunteers’ dedicated efforts. It is a day to showcase how they make a difference,” says Dra. Angie Sievert-Fernandez, Executive Director of Kythe Foundation, during her opening remarks. “Volunteers may come in different ages, with different skills and backgrounds, yet what they all have in common is a giving heart and an attitude of service.” 


Andreas Riedel, President and Managing Director, received this award on behalf of MSD in the Philippines. “I would like to congratulate Kythe Foundation for 30 years of providing strong community support for children with cancer all over the Philippines,” says Riedel during his award acceptance speech. “We at MSD in the Philippines are honored and humbled to receive the Corporate Volunteer Group of the Year Award for the volunteerism of our employees in collaboration with Kythe, to help address the fears of children who are going through cancer, especially during this pandemic.” 

“This recognition inspires us to continue working towards our purpose of saving and improving lives and bringing hope to Filipino cancer patients throughout their journey,” adds Riedel.

MSD gives back 

MSD employees in the Philippines and around the world are passionate about giving back to their respective communities. “Giving back to our communities is at the core of MSD’s company culture,” shares Michael Blanch, Market Access and Corporate Affairs Director, MSD in the Philippines. “Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, our employees’ passion, collaboration, and commitment to the communities we serve never wavered, allowing us to continue our legacy of service for more than 25 years.”  

At 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, MSD for Mothers, and the MSD Fellowship for Global Health, just to name a few volunteering activities.

To foster a culture of giving back, MSD employees can take 40 hours of paid time off each year to volunteer with eligible non-profit organizations and donate their professional skills through virtual, short-term projects through a skills-based volunteer program.

Giving back amid the pandemic

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, MSD employees in the Philippines supported Kythe Foundation through “5X5: MSD Gives Back,” comprising five different activities launched over the course of five months and focused on reaching pediatric cancer patients across the country.

From July to November 2021, “5X5: MSD Gives Back” provided different skills-based volunteering opportunities for MSD employees in the Philippines, as well as the opportunity to sponsor and organize Celebrate Life e-Parties for the Kythe kids from various health care centers in support of Kythe’s Child Life Program. Skills-based volunteering opportunities included virtual storytelling, arts and crafts, science experiments, as well as mindfulness and yoga sessions with the Kythe kids.

“Thank you to our givers, our volunteers. We thank you for all that you do. Kythe will not be able to serve as many children, have an impact on as many families, nor grow the seeds of change without you. You help Kythe live its mission,” adds Sievert-Fernandez.

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Health Awareness

MSD holds ‘JAB Well Done!’ webinar about pneumococcal vaccination

August 5, 2022

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In line with its commitment to educate the general public about the importance of immunization against pneumonia, MSD in the Philippines, together with the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and, organized a webinar on the importance of pneumonia vaccination titled Jab Well Done! Usapang Bakuna Kontra Pulmonya last July 29.

In this webinar, a panel of experts joined forces to bust long-standing myths about pneumonia prevention and immunization.

“We use our lungs every day. We cannot breathe and we cannot exist without our lungs,” says Dr. Rontgene Solante, one of the leading specialists in vaccination and adult infectious diseases in the country. No wonder one of the leading causes of death worldwide primarily impacts our lungs—pneumonia.

Pneumonia is a leading cause of death and hospitalization among the elderly and in people living with long-term chronic diseases. In the Philippines alone, pneumonia was the seventh leading cause of death in 2021.

Pneumonia also tops the list of illnesses that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) processes claims and reimbursements annually, added Solante, who is also the head of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Unit of San Lazaro Hospital and a member of the Vaccine Expert Panel of the Department of Health (DOH). 

“While pneumonia is among the leading causes of death, it is also a vaccine-preventable disease,” Bryan Posadas, national program manager of the Pharmacy-Based Immunization Program of the Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA), shared.

COVID-19 and pneumonia are often referred to as the “deadly duo,” as COVID-19 is now a primary risk factor for pneumococcal pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease. As such, pneumococcal vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic has become more critical than ever.

Vaccination is one of the most vital and cost-effective tools available in health care to help prevent infectious diseases like pneumonia. However, vaccine awareness and availability do not immediately translate to immunization, explained Dr. Kim Patrick Tejano, program manager of the National Immunization Program (NIP) of the DOH. 

Addressing pneumonia myths​​​​​​​

Myth 1: Pneumonia is just a bad cold

No, pneumonia is not just a bad cold, explained Solante. Colds are an infection of the upper respiratory tract and are usually manageable. Pneumonia, on the other hand, is an infection of the lower respiratory tract that inflames the lungs and air sacs (alveoli).

When inflamed, the air sacs may fill up with fluid or pus, causing symptoms such as cough, fever, chills and trouble breathing. Unlike colds, pneumonia is life-threatening, causing complications such as respiratory failure, sepsis, and lung abscess.

Myth 2: You get pneumonia from dried sweat and overfatigue

No, you cannot get pneumonia from dried sweat and overfatigue, explained Tejano. As explained earlier, pneumonia is a swelling or an inflammation in one or both lungs usually caused by an infection.

Different germs can cause pneumonia, including bacteria, fungi and viruses, including influenza and the COVID-19 virus. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia is Streptococcus pneumoniae, followed by the bacteria-like organism, Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

Myth 3: Pneumonia only affects the elderly

Pneumonia can affect people of any age, explains Solante. However, pneumonia is more likely to affect and have serious complications for infants and young children, people 50 years old and above, people with weakened immune systems, and adults with other chronic medical conditions.

Regardless of age, one is also more likely to get pneumonia if they have diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart disease. Smokers and heavy drinkers are also at high risk of getting pneumonia. These vulnerable groups are recommended to get their pneumococcal vaccine.

Myth 4: You only need one pneumonia vaccine in your lifetime

Much like with the COVID-19 vaccine, you need more than one shot of the pneumonia vaccine, explained Posadas. According to the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) or pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) are recommended for the prevention of invasive pneumococcal disease in adults 50 years old and older.

The current PSMID adult immunization guidelines recommend two pneumococcal vaccines, given in a sequential approach. The vaccines are usually given 1 year apart or 8 weeks for those who are immunocompromised.

Myth 5: COVID-19 vaccines can protect me against pneumonia 

While the COVID-19 vaccine can help protect one from the severe symptoms of the coronavirus, it does not guarantee protection from pneumonia. Specific vaccines protect against specific kinds of diseases and infections; as such, the COVID-19 vaccine can only protect you from COVID-19, explained Solante.    

As stated, COVID-19 is now regarded as a key risk factor for pneumococcal pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease. As such, it is recommended that high-risk individuals get their pneumococcal vaccine as soon as possible.

Immunizing pharmacists in action

Despite vaccines being readily available, safe and effective, vaccine hesitancy remains. As such, we need the continued cooperation and collaboration of allied medical and health professionals to ramp up vaccine awareness and immunization, especially among the most vulnerable members of the population.

Pharmacists have been identified by the public as among the most accessible health care professionals as well as a trustworthy source of health information.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists helped fast-track COVID-19 vaccination through the ResBakuna sa Botika Program, a joint government and private sector initiative that aims to expand the country’s immunization program.

Through this program, pharmacists embraced their role as adult immunizers to help address the shortage of vaccinators. Adult vaccines, such as pneumococcal vaccines and flu shots, are made available in local pharmacies and drugstore chains nationwide and can now be administered by pharmacists.

The PPhA provides a training and certification program for immunizing pharmacists, where they undergo theoretical learning, skills training and basic life support before they can be certified to administer adult vaccines.

Today, there are around 1,000 trained and certified immunizing pharmacists in local pharmacies and drugstore chains nationwide and there are more in the pipeline, Posadas shared.

“Get correct information from trusted health care professionals, including pharmacists. Trust the experts. Vaccination is another layer of protection,” he said.

“We strongly encourage everyone to get their age-appropriate vaccines to protect themselves and the people around them from vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumonia. All you need to do is visit the nearest health center to know the available vaccines and schedules. Let’s all get vaccinated for a healthier Philippines,” Tejano concluded.

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Our People

A culture of innovation: Reshaping the future of the workplace at MSD in the Philippines

February 14, 2022

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For over 125 years globally, and for 25 years here in the country, MSD in the Philippines has
been researching and developing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most
challenging diseases. With unwavering focus, MSD looks for medical innovations that improve
health and save lives throughout the world. At the heart of MSD’s success is its strong Human
Resource (HR) team.

Through the years, MSD positioned itself as a company that focuses on leadership and culture to
drive breakthrough healthcare innovations and business success.

“Patients first”, said Marese de Vera, HR Leader. “All our actions must be measured against our
responsibility to those who use or need our products.”

The way MSD operates is based on four pillars: Patient First, Ethics and Integrity, Respect for
People, Innovation and Excellence. With these, MSD leads a conscious effort to be a company
worthy of trust by its employees and patients.

“MSD is focused on protecting the safety of its employees and their families, ensuring that our
supply of medicines and vaccines reach our patients and customers”, Mike Blanch, Corporate
Affairs Director, remarked. “We are also supporting healthcare providers, through the PHAP
Cares foundation, to make sure our frontliners are adequately equipped and protected from this

Leading the fight against COVID-19

When the global pandemic escalated back in March, the government placed Metro Manila and
the whole island of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine. Several employees were
affected, fearing that they might lose their jobs along the way. MSD HR responded to address
this anxiety and fear in order for the organization to continue its operations.

Constant communication is key. “We made sure, throughout this pandemic, that we addressed
not just the physical health but the mental health of employees as well”, de Vera noted.

As a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, MSD is currently exploring multiple pathways to
advance understanding of SARS-CoV-2 and develop vaccines and treatments, including two
COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, a research collaboration to develop a novel antiviral
candidate, and an expansive internal research program to assess available vaccine and antiviral

With the company’s experience in HIV and Ebola, MSD knows that innovation, science, and
collaboration are both essential to develop medicines and vaccines in a global public health
emergency like COVID-19. The path to vaccine development is not easy but MSD is optimistic
that collaborative spirit of the industry will yield new tools to fight coronavirus.

The culture of innovation

“Inventing for Life”, MSD’s battlecry, guides the culture of innovation that pervades across the
organization. To continually enable its pool of talent to deliver scientific breakthroughs and
health solutions that impact as many patients as possible, MSD takes a unique approach in
people management.

Innovation manifests in the company’s robust values-based HR practices – from recruitment,
onboarding, talent development, and continuous learning and leadership development.

According to de Vera, MSD ensures that employees are enabled with the knowledge, tools, and
environment that allow for innovation and creativity in the workplace. Every employee is
encouraged to always push the boundaries of what they can do for patients – while at all times
upholding ethics and integrity.

Innovation also empowered employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The leadership
management made a call to allow work-from-home and provided employees with tools,
applications, and equipment to make remote work a success.

“We empower them, encourage them to learn, open networks up to them, encourage sharing,
and encourage experimentation with new ideas and approaches”, de Vera highlighted.

This was possible through MSD’s “Ways of Working”. Employees are empowered to make
appropriate decisions within their jurisdictions and encouraged to be forward-looking and be
open to changes, to explore different roles and functions to reach their potential. As part of
MSD’s 25th anniversary, the “Boost Up Program” will be introduced to open more opportunities
for employees to grow their career within the organization.

Prior to the pandemic, HR held various communication efforts to reach out to employees. These
are: engaged leadership or Kapihan, an intimate group breakfast session where employees
raise any question under the sun; Country Leadership Team Ikot or CLT IKOT; and, an
employee engagement pulse survey done biannually.

During the pandemic, these efforts are replaced with regular town hall meetings and daily
check-in calls done through video conferences. The goal is to reassure the employees and
ensure that the company is with them in this fight.

As a company dedicated to saving and improving lives, MSD recognizes that they have a
special responsibility to help. Innovation plays a vital role in achieving this mission.

“Over the last 25 year here in the Philippines, MSD has pushed the boundaries of science with
the hope and expectation that advancing scientific knowledge will lead to major advances in
health”, Blanch shared.

Through innovations and collaborations, MSD successfully developed and launched the first
vaccines for measles and mumps, and the first vaccine for HPV that causes cervical and other
cancers. The company also led the development of ground-breaking medicines for heart
disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, tuberculosis, HIV and melanoma. This success is not achieved
single-handedly. MSD recognized the relationships established from working with healthcare
professionals, partners, and the government, with the aim of delivering quality healthcare for the

Transformational leadership in action

MSD advocates transformational leadership in order to build and nurture a culture of innovation.
Programs such as MSD Fellowship Global for Health, a three-month, field-based corporate pro
bono program designed to leverage the skills and talents of our employees worldwide, help
empower leaders and develop potential leaders within the organization.

The move from a traditional office setup to a semi-open space also encouraged employees to
break barriers, communicate openly, and think creatively.

“The fact that our workplace is set for the future in that it is conducive for collaboration, agile,
innovative helps us stay ahead. This drives the sustainability of the organization”, de Vera

MSD is mission-focused on helping save and improve lives of the Filipino people. As such, the
organization continues to create an environment of mutual respect, inclusion, creativity and
accountability. With innovation and collaboration, challenges can be overcome.

Health Awareness

PNIC 2021 highlights continuous efforts to build vaccine confidence in the new normal

February 14, 2022

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Today’s adolescents are expected to shape the future. But to maximize their potential, the society needs to empower the youth by ensuring that they grow into learned, confident, and healthy adults. 

Thirty million young people between the ages of 10-24 account for 28 percent of the Philippine population. Adolescent immunization rates continue to remain low, despite the success of pediatric vaccination programs.

In her talk titled Vaccination for Teens during the 2021 Philippine National Immunization Conference (PNIC 2021), Dr. Cecilia Llave, gynecologic-oncologist and technical adviser of the Scale Up Cervical Cancer Elimination with Secondary Prevention Strategy (SUCCESS) project of JHPIEGO, (a Johns Hopkins University affiliate) said that lack of access to healthcare compounded with risk-taking behaviors and low health literacy make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections like human papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B.

She laments that many teens in developing nations like the Philippines may have missed childhood doses. But unfortunately, it is also at this stage when the efficacy of childhood vaccination wanes. “We should target adolescents even though they look generally healthy,” Dr. Llave said. 

She cautions that mothers who may have missed their routine immunization may be susceptible to rubella and measles, which may lead to congenital disabilities such as microcephaly, intellectual disabilities, and eyesight or hearing defects.

Furthermore, “Immunized adolescents will protect the vulnerable by contributing to herd immunity,” which is essential in battling highly contagious diseases like measles and polio. 

“We don’t want any outbreaks just like the ongoing pandemic,” she said.  

Re-emergence of VPDs amid COVID-19

The current pandemic has underscored the role of vaccines as an important public health strategy. However, Philippine Foundation for Vaccination Inc. (PFV) president Dr. Liza Antoinette Gonzales reminded that while we are dealing with the global scourge that is COVID-19, there are also other vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) that may result in further outbreaks if not addressed. 

“The pandemic does not wipe out these diseases,” she warns. “We cannot trade one health crisis for another.”

This is reiterated by the World Health Organization representative to the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, one of the keynote speakers during the event. He reported that the country remains a high-risk spot for re-emergence of VPDs, just like the polio and measles comeback in 2018. 

He added an urgent need for a rapid scale up of immunization programs to help prevent large-scale outbreaks of VPDs, especially measles, rubella, diphtheria, and potentially, polio, as it is still in circulation globally. 

The importance of HPV vaccination

Some parents may balk at the idea of giving HPV vaccines to their pre-teen daughters. But healthcare practitioners can’t emphasize enough the importance of giving the vaccine at an age before the patient is potentially exposed to HPV.

Dr. Llave shares that low-risk HPV types are the culprit behind genital warts, while high-risk HPV may cause six types of cancers, including cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the Philippines, with 7,277 new cases diagnosed and 3,807 deaths annually. Regular screening can help diagnose infection at an early stage, and HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of cancers caused by HPV.

Promoting vaccine acceptance 

In his special message to the conference attendees, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque acknowledges that more work is needed to raise vaccine confidence for HPV, polio, and COVID-19. 

That is why the PFV, through its annual PNIC, continues to raise awareness on the benefits of a vaccinated population, increase confidence and dispel hesitancy. Now on its 22nd run with the theme “Understanding Vaccination in the Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic,” the event gathers all stakeholders in the vaccine advocacy to exchange ideas, learnings, methods, and experiences on national immunization as the country grapples with the scourge of COVID-19.

Health Awareness

Saab Magalona says YES to Call the Shots

February 14, 2022

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“Health should be on top of the list.”

Content creator, podcast host, entrepreneur, and mother, Saab Magalona-Bacarro has officially made the call to protect her children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Being a mom of two boys – Pancho and Vito, Saab makes sure that health is on top of every list for her family. “It’s the most important thing because if that is overlooked, everything else will just crumble down,” she said.

That’s why for her, saying YES to Call the Shots, is a “no-brainer” to help promote awareness and education on something as life-saving as protecting our children from vaccine-preventable diseases. The Call the Shots PH is an advocacy campaign by MSD Philippines to help protect parents and their children from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccination is a big factor in preventing illnesses and spreading disease,” she said. “It’s a few minutes of crying in exchange for long-term protection against life-threatening diseases so it’s very much worth it.

Saab also advised other parents who are still not taking the call. “If you need to do more research, please make sure your readings are science-based!” Saab emphasized as a lot of articles and myths can be easily searched on the internet. It is most important to seek advice from a health professional or from your pediatrician.

She also said that it is important to be proactive in your children’s health. “Do it for your child,” Saab added as she encourages every parent to speak to their doctor about protecting their children from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Being proactive means making the call today. #CallTheShots now and go to the nearest doctor or healthcare provider to talk about the immunization schedule for your child.

For more information, visit the Call the Shots Facebook Page and consult your pediatrician on how to protect your children against vaccine-preventable diseases.