Experts push DOH to hasten free flu vaccine shots for seniors

Experts push DOH to hasten free flu shots for seniors

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:15 AM April 15, 2024

DOH: More than P86.5 million under 'One COVID-19 Allowance' released since January

A nurse vaccinates a senior citizen who ignored claims against COVID-19 vaccines. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Medical experts are calling on the Department of Health (DOH) to hasten the rollout of free elderly flu vaccines as early as May to protect senior citizens from a potential outbreak of respiratory diseases in the coming months.

“The recent outbreak of respiratory diseases is a testament to the importance of early preparation in mitigating the impact of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dr. Rontgene Solante, infectious disease expert and lead convener of the Raising Awareness Influenza to Support Elderlies (Raise) Coalition, said in a statement.


READ: DOH: Flu-like illnesses kill 9 from Jan-Feb 3


“The DOH must act now and expedite the release of flu vaccines to the public before the peak incidence to safeguard the elderly from severe complications like pneumonia,” he added.

Raise Coalition is a multisectoral group working with different medical societies to advocate for timely responses and vaccination programs for the elderly.

READ: Playing catch-up on public health

Flu-like illnesses

Based on DOH data, influenza-like illness (ILI) cases went up by 50 percent from 131,1997 in 2022 to 198,094 in 2023. Deaths among ILI patients, however, went down from 497 to 277 in the same period.

According to the group, vaccinating senior citizens early on can mitigate potential outbreaks before the expected peak incidence of flu cases between June and November.

Dr. Lulu Bravo, vaccine expert and Raise Coalition coconvener, also called on the DOH to expand free flu vaccination for all seniors, regardless of their economic status.


“Many elderly depend solely on government-provided free vaccines as their primary protection against the flu,” she said.

Vaccinate all seniors

“It is crucial to vaccinate all seniors, similar to the proactive measures implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. Controlling pertussis will take time, and its concurrent rise with flu cases could strain our healthcare system’s capacity to respond effectively,” she added.

Vaccinations are generally conducted in the third or fourth quarter of the year before the flu season, which starts in October and peaks during the colder months of January and February.

Non-indigent seniors need to pay P1,000 to P2,000 for a flu vaccine per year and P3,000 to P4,000 for a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine every five years.

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According to Solante, also the president of the Philippine College of Physicians, vaccination coverage among the elderly has been low, even if the government currently provides them for free, due to vaccine hesitancy and their inaccessibility to seniors.

TAGS: DoH, flu vaccines, Rontgene Solante

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