In 2020, the Department of Social Welfare and Development held a lecture on immunization and free pneumonia immunization. This is significant in a country with 18.2% of its citizens experiencing elderly poverty in the Philippines and unable to meet food needs. According to a study by the Tsao Foundation, more availability to community resources like vaccination drives could lead to a higher quality of life among the Filipino elderly.
The Lecture on Immunization and Free Pneumonia Immunization
In 2018, 16.6% of the Philippine population lived under the national poverty line, affirming the need for aid for elderly poverty in the Philippines. The lecture occurred in February 2020, some months before the World Bank predicted that elderly poverty in the Philippines would increase during the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020. Furthermore, in December 2020, an economist from the World Bank predicted that 2.7 million more people would become poor as a result of job losses and slower cash remittances due to the pandemic, or about 2% of the Philippines population.
The event makes vaccine information readily available to elderly citizens as Calabarzon, the location of the vaccine drive, is the number one region in the Philippines to have elderly residents, boasting over 1 million aged people, or 13.3% of the total population. One thousand senior citizens attended from 16 municipalities and seven cities of Cavite province in Calabarzon. This event is proactive and timely in light of the 57,809 lives lost in 2016 to pneumonia, almost 10% of total deaths according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
A 2016 initiative, the Expanded Pneumococcal Immunization Program for Senior Citizens, supports the event. It makes free pneumococcal vaccines available, mobilizes to reduce pneumonia among the elderly and encourages the public to obtain vaccinations. In particular, the program aims to protect Filipinos from the ages of 60-65.
Cavite Gov. Jonvic Joins Battle Against Vaccine Hesitancy
Although pneumonia is a vaccine-preventable disease, many Filipinos are still reluctant to receive vaccinations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019 was the refusal to vaccinate. Despite the availability of vaccines, hospitals did not vaccinate Filipinos due to hesitancy and the belief that vaccines are harmful. Elderly Filipinos are at particularly high risk because of compromised immune systems that cannot fend off the virus as easily.
The 2020 lecture, with the governor of Cavite Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla in attendance and the Department of Health assisting in its management, not only informed Filipino senior citizens of the life-saving benefits of exercising and eating healthy together with being vaccinated but also coordinated a ceremony in full with free vaccinations. The event made use of the catchphrase “Bakuna Muna: Dahil ang Bakunado, Protektado:” Vaccine First: Because of the Vaccine, (We Are) Protected.
The Philippines is Among the Slowest Aging Asian Countries
Most East Asian and Pacific countries are rapidly aging. In fact, more than 15% of the population in those countries is a senior citizen. The Philippines is among one of the two East Asian countries slowest to age. While estimates have determined that Vietnam will need 15 years for the older population to outpace younger citizens, the Philippines will require 30 years for the number of senior citizens to catch up.
Compared to Western countries, which will take 20 years for the number of aged citizens to increase 5.4% by 2030, predictions have determined that the most upcoming spike in the number of aged people in 15 years will be less than 4%. This is a rate of 0.0026 of the country’s citizens per year in the Philippines, less even than the United States’ 0.0027 per year.
With health care costs totaling up to $20 trillion total, the Philippines likely has more time to settle its finances and organize elderly support policies than most countries. More than in other Asian countries, elderly poverty in the Philippines has a window and leeway for more developed countries to provide aid.
Other Policies Aiding Elderly Poverty
Policies currently in place supporting elderly poverty in the Philippines include the Health and Wellness Plan for Senior Citizens (HWPSC), the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003 and the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. The HWPSC has the responsibility of reaching out to both national and local governments to provide logistical help and to assist program implementation. It also promises elderly citizens the care and attention they need to help them flourish and receive treatment.
The 2010 Expanded Senior Citizens (Republic Act 9994) Act is an amendment to a former health policy that aims to provide discounted pharmaceuticals and vaccines to senior citizens who cannot afford medical treatments. The Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9257), like the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, is an amendment to the same policy guaranteeing additional benefits such as a 20% discount on medical and dental services.
The Philippines is soon to have a 2 million increase in people suffering from poverty. Organizations like the Department of Social Welfare and Development and initiatives like the Health and Wellness Plan for Senior Citizens support these people by providing health aid to combat elderly poverty in the Philippines. Though the pandemic’s impact persists, the government is mobilizing services to improve conditions for the Philippines’ older people.
– Alyssa Ranola