Overview of Philippines ageing landscape
The population in Philippines currently stands at a relatively young median age of 25.7 years. However, by 2050, the number of people aged 65 years and above will triple to 17 million people, equivalent to 11.8% of its overall projected population.[i] As people age, the immune system becomes less effective. This leads to greater susceptibility to certain infections and diseases, like pneumonia and influenza, among the elderly. As pneumonia and influenza are more common among the elderly, they also result in higher mortality rates. For instance, in 2020, pneumonia was the fifth leading cause of death, explaining 5.6% of all-cause deaths.[ii] Furthermore, a staggering 67.1% of influenza-associated mortality occurs in adults aged 60 years and older each year.[iii]
Tracking the progress of healthy ageing and life-course immunisation agenda in the Philippines
While the Philippines has not developed an adult immunisation schedule, vaccine subsidies are available for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. The Expanded Pneumococcal Immunisation Programme for Senior Citizens, provides free pneumococcal vaccines to all citizens at ages 60 and 65.[iv] Outside of the national immunisation programme, individuals aged 60 and above receive discounts between 20-60% for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines through the Expanded Senior Citizens Act[v] and the nationwide PhilHealth public insurance scheme.[vi] In addition, the Health and Wellness Programme for Senior Citizens provides free influenza and pneumococcal vaccines to the 1.3 million indigent citizens aged 60 and above in the country.[vii]
Ultimately, though, immunisation rates for vaccines among older adults depend on the extent of financing coverage.
Key challenges and solutions
At a 2022 roundtable discussion among various stakeholders in Philippines, supported by Ageing Asia and Sanofi, experts covered key challenges and solutions including:
Lack of advocacy, awareness and information
Many are unaware about the availability of adult vaccinations and subsidies, which directly affects the uptake of life-course immunisation. Older adults also lack the understanding of technology, resulting in limited access to information
Limited awareness of life-course immunisation
Many have the misconception that crucial vaccines are only given at birth or to children. Additionally, the general population do not fully understand, and are faced with uncertainties about the efficacy of vaccination or its components.
Philippines Key Takeaways – ‘The Decade of Healthy Ageing in ASEAN: Role of Life-course Immunisation’
[i] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2019). Probabilistic Population Projections Rev. 1 based on the World Population Prospects 2019 Rev. 1. [Online]. Available: http://population.un.org/wpp/
[ii] Philippine Statistics Authorit. ‘Cause of Deaths in the Philippines (Preliminary): January to December 2020.’ 16 March 2021. [Online]. Available: https://psa.gov.ph/content/causes-deaths-philippines-preliminary-january-december-2020
[iii] K.J.G. Cheng, A. Rivera and H.Y. Lam. ‘Influenza-associated excess mortality in the Philippines, 2006-2015.’ PLoS One. 2020;15(6):e0234715.
[iv] T. Padilla, ‘Fighting pneumonia.’ BusinessWorld, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.bworldonline.com/fighting-pneumonia/.
[v] Congress of the Philippines. ‘Fourteenth Congress.’ The LawPhil Project, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra2010/ra_9994_2010.html.
[vi] PhilHealth. ‘Improving PhilHealth Benefits for our Elders.’ PhilHealth, 2012. [Online]. Available: https://www.philhealth.gov.ph/news/2012/elders_benefits.html.
[vii] Department of Health. ‘HEALTH AND WELFARE OF SENIOR CITIZEN PROGRAM.’ Republic of The Philippines, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://ro9.doh.gov.ph/index.php/health-programs/maternal-child-health/health-and-welfare-of-senior-citizen-program.