Poor, elderly in Region 12 to get free flu, pneumonia vaccines

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 June) – Around 53,000 poor elderly residents in Region 12 are set to receive free immunization services for influenza and pneumonia from the Department of Health (DOH).

Ryan Ibones, regional information technology officer of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12’s National Household Targeting Unit, said Monday the free immunization is part of the benefits set for indigent senior citizens under Republic Act (RA) 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

In Region 12, he said they have identified the beneficiaries based on the agency’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) survey database.

Southwestern Mindanao comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Ibones said a total of 13,265 senior citizens will receive the free vaccines in South Cotabato, 19,103 in North Cotabato, 10,591 in Sultan Kudarat, 6,770 in Sarangani and 3,491 in Cotabato City.

“These are elderly residents aged 60 and above who were earlier identified as among the region’s poorest of the poor based on the results of NHTS-PR survey,” Ibones said.

In preparation for the implementation of the initiative, he said they recently conducted an orientation on the provisions of Administrative Order 2011-0018 or the implementing guidelines on influenza and pneumococcal immunization for senior citizens for local implementers.

The orientation was attended by the region’s provincial and city social welfare and development officers, social pension officers and DOH Region 12 personnel.

Under Section 4 (f) of RA 9994, the DOH is mandated to administer free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizens in the country.

The implementing rules and regulations of RA 9994 directed the DOH to come up with technical and operational guidelines for the initiative using the DSWD’s NHTS-PR survey.

The IRR cited that the program will focus on “neglected, abandoned, unattached, or homeless senior citizens in government-run residential homes, centers, and facilities.”

Ibones said the pneumococcal vaccines will only be given once while the influenza vaccination will be administered yearly.

“Pneumococcal vaccines provide lifetime immunity for senior citizens,” he said.

He said the treatment for influenza depends on the strain of the influenza virus monitored in the area in a given year.

“We’re positive that after the vaccination, our indigent senior citizens in the region will be better guarded against these diseases, which could cause their hospitalizations or even death, if not properly treated,” he added.