Friday, April 29, 2016

Philippines - Groups demand cheaper pneumonia vaccine for Filipino kids

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A number of advocacy organizations are  calling on the Filipino American community to support a global effort to save Filipino children from pneumonia, the leading cause of child mortality in the Philippines.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Philippines is one of 15 countries that together account for 75 percent of childhood pneumonia cases worldwide. In children aged under five years, pneumonia is the leading cause of mortality.

The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is supporting the petition drive spearheaded by NextDayBetter and Doctors Without Borders that is directed at two pharmaceutical companies –  Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – the only two producers of the life-saving pneumonia vaccine.

“We need Pfizer and GSK to lower the pneumonia vaccine price in the Philippines, from $45 to $5 per child,” says Ryan Letada of NextDayBetter, a storytelling platform for creative diaspora communities, which uses digital media and global speaker events to generate action and make an impact. “Many lives have been saved by this vaccine, but pneumonia still kills nearly 1 million children every year. The problem is urgent.”

NaFFAA’s Director of Health, Dr. Rommel Rivera of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, says the situation is alarming and affirms NaFFAA’s endorsement of this initiative.

“We must take a stand as a community and use our influence to put pressure on these giant companies to make the vaccine affordable not only for children in the Philippines but for all children all over the world,” Rivera said. “The petition campaign ends next Tuesday so we’re calling on everyone to tell their family, friends and co-workers to sign now. It is critical that we make our voices heard.”

The link to the petition is​. The goal is to collect 300,000 signatures by April 26. The petitions will be delivered to the offices of Pfizer and GSK the following day.

Rivera, who is President of the Philippine Medical Society of Greater Philadelphia (PMSGP), posted the online link to the petition a week ago, which was in turn shared by NaFFAA members nationwide.

Among those responding is Dr. Nanette Bernabe Quion of Arlington, Virginia, a pediatrician who is trained in public health. “This vaccine will save millions of lives,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “This vaccine has been proven to be safe and efficacious. The expensive cost of drug development should not be borne by poor and developing countries. It is very unfortunate that the Philippine DOH has not included the pneumococcal vaccine in its Expanded Program of immunization when it is a proven and cost effective vaccine. We should have spent on this vaccine, which has a better safety profile, instead of the haphazard implementation of the dengue vaccine.”

In explaining NDB’s collaboration with Doctors Without Borders, Letada says that they “recognize that the Filipino diaspora is a source of world-class healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors, physical therapy) and public health community organizers. Without Filipino healthcare professionals, the global healthcare system would implode — that’s how influential and critical we are as a community.

“Doctors Without Borders and NextDayBetter believe that the Filipino diaspora belong on the decision making table when it comes to public health issues that plague our community. This campaign is about ensuring that our community’s voice is heard.”

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