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INFECTIOUS DISEASES. Dr. Lulu Bravo (center), expert on infectious disease vaccines, urged equal government attention on nCov as with pneumonia which is claiming the lives of young Filipino children at a higher rate than nCoV. During the Kapihan sa Manila, ‘Obet’ Pagdanganan of Medicines Transparency Alliance warned of a repeat of the Dengvaxia controversy if selection of a pneumonia vaccine does not undergo transparent public bidding. (Photo by Allen Cid)

Pneumonia death rate alarming

The global anxiety over the deadly 2019 novel corona virus (nCoV) has drowned out attention that should also be given to pneumonia and other diseases like polio or tuberculosis, according to an expert and professor on infectious diseases.

Dr. Lulu C. Bravo, executive director of Philippine Foundation for Vaccination and professor on pediatric infectious and tropical diseases at the College of Medicine, University of the Philippines (Manila) who earlier researched on pneumonia among Filipino children, lauded ongoing efforts by local and international health officials at instructing the public how to prevent the spread of nCoV.

At the February 11, 2020 edition of Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, Dr. Bravo said the massive information campaign can also help lower the mortality rate of children below five years old dying from pneumonia which, according to latest data from the World Health Organization, stands at 35 deaths a day in the Philippines.

Dr. Bravo attributes the high death rate to Filipino families’ lack of access to adequate health care, poor public health facilities, unavailability of specialized medicines at government health centers and inability by parents to determine early signs of pneumonia in young children.

While polio and tuberculosis has previously been eradicated in the country, pneumonia persisted due to lack of sufficient research on management and cure, according to Dr. Bravo.

Ongoing debate by government officials on purchase of the appropriate pneumonia vaccine – Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine 13 (PCV13) or PCV10 – should be based on local, not foreign, research, added Dr. Bravo.

At the same Kapihan media forum organized by the Association of Philippine Journalists (Samahang Plaridel), Former Gov. Roberto ‘Obet’ Pagdanganan – chairman of the advocacy group Medicines Transparency Alliance (MeTA) pushed for a transparent public bidding for any pneumonia vaccine which had been allocated a budget of P4.9 billion.

Pagdanganan cautioned against a possible repeat of the Dengvaxia vaccine issue whose acquisition allegedly benefitted a preferred pharmaceutical company.

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