DOH launched the pneumococcal immunization program at the SMX Convention at SM Lanang for senior citizens to protect them from pneumonia. (Ace R. Morandante/

DAVAO CITY – The Department of Health (DOH) is targeting to vaccinate 84,167 senior citizens here as it launched its nationwide free vaccine against pneumonia on Wednesday, May 18.

DOH launched the pneumococcal immunization program at the SMX Convention at SM Lanang here for senior citizens to protect them from pneumonia saying that senior citizens “are more vulnerable to this disease because of seniority”.

Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin said that one of the reason why DOH chose Davao as the venue for the launching is the present high rate of pneumonia in the area.

Dr. Josephine J. Villafuerte, city health officer said that as of 2015 there were already a total of 14,966 cases and 1,577 deaths due to pneumonia in the city. This, she said, is made worse by close family interaction with the affected person.

Garin said the free vaccine would help the elderly boost their immunity and to prevent transmission of the infection to the vulnerable.

She said the free vaccine is against influenza and pneumonia and the DOH aims to vaccinate 95 percent of the senior citizens nationwide.

“If a senior citizen got pneumonia even after getting a vaccine, it will be just mild and not like other pneumonia that won’t respond to any antibiotic because of the environmental protection of the area,” Garin said.

Garin added that pneumonia could lead to death since there are bacteria and viruses that do not respond anymore to antibiotic medicines because it forms a new bacteria.

Pneumonia is among the five leading causes of morbidity in the Philippines, together with acute respiratory infection, bronchitis, hypertension and acute watery diarrhea.

As of 2013, Garin said that there were 647,597 cases of pneumonia in the country.

Seniors need vaccines Garin said that some senior citizens think that they don’t need vaccines.

“Sometimes when we are more focus on our grandchildren, we forget that we don’t immunize ourselves, if you will be infected, there is a possibility,” Garin said.

The vaccine is available in any rural health units in the country.

“This is a vaccine preventable diseases so why do we have to wait to get ill?” she said. The pneumococcal immune program for senior citizens has two series of vaccine shots with five years interval per shot.

“Senior citizen must not take a pneumococcal vaccine every year, only twice with an interval of five year,” Garin said.

To avoid confusion, Garin advised senior citizens who will turn 60 years old to take the first shot of vaccine on their 60th birthday to easily monitor the next vaccination which is five years after.

She clarified that the vaccine is just prevention from the sickness and also a protection to the body.

Dr. Abdullah B. Dumama Jr., Regional Director IV, DOH region XI said that there are still 22,000 dozes of vaccines that were delivered in Davao City. (

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