The Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Pasay City Local Government Unit (LGU) and the Senior Citizens’ Partylist came together to showcase how every sector is able to contribute to improving vaccination coverage during this year’s World Immunization Week Health Connect Forum.
The forum, organized by the the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association (PHAP), and Sanofi Pasteur Inc., focused on “Each Sector’s Role in the Big Catch-up” to ensure the protection of people of all ages against vaccine preventable diseases.
“The time is now to build everything to give vaccines to those who need it most. The children and the elderly who are still unaware of vaccines, are at highest risk of dying.” said PFV Executive Director Dr. Lulu Bravo. PMA President Dr. Maria Minerva Calimag added, “Vulnerable populations also include the 14-17M indigenous peoples whose health concerns we should also address. Physicians at the PMA will join hands with the government to address gaps in implementation.”
The DOH noted that the Philippines ranked fourth in the world with the highest number of zero-dose children, which is why their priority is catch-up immunization for children who missed out on their schedules the past few years. They emphasized that this would only be successful through collaborative efforts. “Vaccination is a whole-of-nation approach. That is why we need everyone’s help in order for us to catch-up and improve our vaccine coverage.” said DOH National Immunization Program Manager Dr. Janis Macazo.
Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary Margarita Gutierrez noted that learnings from the COVID vaccination program can be used for all vaccination programs. “We developed the LGU guide for rehabilitation and recovery for COVID-19 to serve as an operational manual for similar situations,” she said.
This was echoed by Pasay City Health Officer Dr. Mercedes Noble, who coordinates the city’s National Immunization Program. “Our partners are very supportive in using their venues for mass vaccination programs. Our very dedicated barangay health center staff go beyond their office hours and even weekends, so no child will be left behind.”
DSWD Director for Policy Development and Planning Bureau Rhodora Alday further shared how their programs are designed to address all of the social economic dimension which includes access to health services.
Director Alday said that the 4P’s program (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) helped incentivize beneficiaries for vaccination. “We are targeting around 700,000 households that have children below 18 years old to be enrolled in the program. Hopefully DSWD will help increase the immunization campaign through this program. Moreover, with a strong partnership that we have at the LGU we can design convergence programs to help free immunization available to people,” said Dir. Alday.
The forum also highlighted that catch-up immunization should not be limited to routine childhood vaccines. Atty. Charles de Belen from the Senior Citizens’ Partylist talked about ensuring our elderly loved ones are also fully protected from infectious diseases such as the flu. “Through our legislative agenda and initiatives, we try to expand the availability of immunizations that are inaccessible to senior citizens,” he said. Partylist Representative Congressman Ordanes’ HB 2097 recently passed the first reading in Congress.
“We now have vaccines to prevent more than 20 life-threatening diseases for people of all ages. In this age and time, no one should die from vaccine preventable diseases,” said Mr. Teodoro B. Padilla, PHAP Executive Director Mr. Teodoro Padilla. With PHAP bringing together these stakeholders, both public and private sectors have shown strong support for continued vaccination efforts this World Immunization Week.
The media forum, moderated by journalist and health advocate Jing Castañeda, can be viewed on the Facebook pages of PMA, PFV and PHAP.