World Immunization Week | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

World Immunization Week

Two weeks ago, a cousin had brought her 10-year-old daughter for her annual influenza vaccination. In the course of the conversation, she asked about pertussis. I laughingly told her that she wasn’t a very good listener and have I been wasting my breath all these years? Reassuring her that her one and only was up to date with her immunizations, we reviewed the record together. She turned to me and said, “Oh, so that was part of the six-in-one injection!”

“Doktora, ano ba ang pertussis?” My favorite pharmacist in one popular drugstore asked after handing over some prescription medicine. It was near closing time so I launched into a lecture unaware that a customer was waiting. Turning around to apologize, he acknowledged me with a kind and broad smile and said, “No problem po!”

A 4-year-old patient did a mini pole vault type of leap onto the examining table, sat comfortably, and succeeded in bringing tears to my eyes after declaring emphatically, “I love you, Doctor Timmy, you help me grow and you protect me by giving me injections.” Now that is the kind of reaffirmation that one needs to have, to know that one has chosen the right profession. His parents then volunteered the information that before the visit, they had taken time to explain what he was about to be subjected to. Satisfied that he was ready, I told them he was up for two injections. Tatay then encased him in a strong embrace and motioned me to proceed. Tears are to be expected 95 percent of the time in such encounters, as being stuck by a needle does hurt, but it pays to be honest. Moments later, he was running around with his younger sibling and rewarded us all with a cheery wave before leaving the clinic.

From April 24 to 30, for World Immunization Week, we celebrate 50 years of the Expanded Program on Immunization. On the World Health Organization webpage you will find the words “Humanly Possible: Saving Lives through Immunization” accompanied by a picture of a mother kissing her baby whose five chubby fingers could be seen holding her mother’s face. It is possible and it has saved lives. While no vaccine is 100 percent effective, it has played a significant role in preventing death, severe illness, being hospitalized, and untold consequences that could be debilitating and long-lasting.


You must have heard or read about vaccine-preventable outbreaks in the past year and the efforts being made to increase awareness and address the gaps in the form of surveillance, supplemental immunization, and catch-up activities.

The Philippine Pediatric Society, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, and the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, all nongovernment entities, being at the forefront of championing the welfare of children and voices of influence in the community, have taken extra steps to commemorate World Immunization Week by heavily immersing in several endeavors in support of the government’s nationwide campaign to not only increase coverage rates but to make the general public understand why there is a need to immunize.

We have long realized that information dissemination campaigns are not enough to make people value its importance and there is a need to reach down into the grassroots to be able to address concerns which from the data gathered are mostly based on safety issues, complicated and muddled by misinformation or, at worse, disinformation or an explosive mix of both. Accepting that there are numerous factors involved such as religious, philosophical beliefs, or financial concerns that make people hesitate to be vaccinated, we need not only concentrate on sharing facts but more importantly, prioritize the importance of listening with empathy. This is on the assumption that the giver of information is well-equipped with the needed knowledge and skilled not only in administering the vaccine but also adept at answering questions.

In a story shared by a colleague in the province, she was surprised that more mothers scored higher than barangay health workers in her post-test questionnaires after her immunization lecture. This brought home the importance of working on improving and finding solutions for a more effective and efficient way of transferring information, from the health professionals who are the key sources, down to the frontliners and the necessity of evaluating and monitoring any existing program.


In any dance, it takes two for a perfect execution. Public and private partnerships, if established for a common good, will always be met with a measure of success. If we all want to contribute to helping find lasting solutions, be in the company of those who know how to walk the talk and are committed to espousing genuine public service. To save lives is humanly possible.

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