Understanding Pneumonia in the Philippines

“I’ve seen it happen many times. It gets frustrating when mothers bring their sick children having great difficulty breathing or nangingitim na (with a dark discoloration already). I’ve been a pediatrician for 43 years. And I’m still looking at this kind of patients. And the worst pneumonias are always seen at Philippine General Hospital (government hospital) because they’re the most complicated ones.

I’ve seen children who’ve died just minutes upon arriving in the hospital. At that point, I can only rebuke the mothers–“Why just now?” Some mothers, because they were so busy with other children or responsibilities, only realized that their sick babies had gotten worse because they were already having seizures!

And it’s because these parents don’t know any better. It’s the mothers who are not educated enough who bring children in that very frustrating state. That is the cycle. We need to break the cycle.

I’m a vaccine advocate and I believe in education campaigns. But pneumonia is such a complex issue! To tackle it encompasses a whole comprehensive plan. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor; anyone can have pneumonia. The difference is how you handle it, your level of awareness about pneumonia, and if you have access to proper medical care. Teach families that they can protect their kids against pneumonia by proper handwashing, breastfeeding, good nutrition, and a clean environment. That to prevent it, you need to get your children vaccinated, especially if you can afford it and if it is provided. And then, you need to teach them how to spot the early symptoms of pneumonia so it can be treated in time. If you teach people what to do, then their children have a chance to survive the first five years of life when they are most vulnerable.”

  • Dra. Lulu Bravo
    President, Immunization Partners in Asia Pacific
    Executive Director, Philippine Foundation for Vaccination
    Professor of Pediatrics, University of the Philippines Manila (Professor Emeritus)

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 has 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