Understanding Pneumonia in the Philippines

“Many times, we’d see parents bring their children to the health center, thinking they’re there to treat an ordinary cough. They would have no idea that it could be as dangerous as pneumonia.

I’m in charge of the pharmacy. I’m one of the first people you encounter here. When parents ask for cough medicine, I ask them a series of questions to find out if there’s any other problem. How long has the child been coughing? Is there a fever? Is it phlegmy? When it sounds dangerous, I tell them to bring the child to the doctor for a checkup.

The problem is that many parents entirely depend on prescriptions without doctor consultation. They think they can avoid a consultation with a doctor and use the money to buy medicine instead. In fact, many would medicate at home first, giving their kids the medicine prescribed to treat a common cough.

But pneumonia is an infection. When it sets in, things get worse. The kids begin to have fever; they start panting for air. At this point, treatment requires hospitalization. But many parents would still beg for a prescription. When the doctors see that these parents would not take their children to the hospital, they relent and prescribe antibiotics. But this is so risky!

We tell the parents that when the child continues to suffer, just go! Many parents underestimate pneumonia or simply cannot afford being confined to a hospital. A prescription would not be not enough to save their kids from danger.”

  • Monalee R. Estuista, RN, BSN
    Clinic Coordinator, Canossa Health and Social Center, Silang, Cavite
    (Translated from Tagalog)

Pneumonia is the leading cause of deaths for children under the age of 5 in the Philippines. There is a vaccine, but it’s priced too high for all Filipino children to get vaccinated in the long term. That’s because pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and GSK still have yet to drop the price. Meanwhile, they’ve made over US$28 billion in global sales from the pneumonia vaccine alone.

We believe that life-saving vaccines should be accessible for all Filipino children, not kept out of reach in the interest of large profits. That’s why NextDayBetter and Doctors Without Borders have partnered on a global action campaign asking Pfizer and GSK to drop the price of the pneumonia vaccine for developing countries like the Philippines.

NextDayBetter Storyteller: Candice Quimpo