MANILA – The country could be facing a potential increase in cases of pediatric pneumonia as all sectors of the economy return to normal, following the end of state of public emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
In a media roundtable discussion on Friday, University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital Infectious and Tropical Disease Division chief Dr. Anna Ong-Lim said increased mobility of the population and decreased vigilance in the observance of minimum public health standards may contribute to the increase in number of pneumonia cases especially among unvaccinated children ages 5 years old and below.
Ong-Lim cited studies in Japan and Taiwan that show the hospital admissions for non-Covid pneumonia during the pandemic decreased significantly.
"They were attributing the decrease to limited mobility restrictions, globally, as a way to limit transmissions," she said.
Citing data from the United Nations Children's Fund, Ong-Lim said a child under 5 years old dies of pneumonia every 43 seconds or around 2,000 children every day.
The disease claims the lives of over 700,000 children under 5 every year worldwide, including over 200,000 newborns.
Globally, there are over 1,400 cases of pneumonia per 100,000 children, or 1 case per 71 children annually.
The most number of pneumonia incidence among children occur in South Asia (2,500 cases per 100,000 children) and West and Central Africa (1,620 cases per 100,000 children).
"Philippines is one of the fifteen countries contributing to pneumonia cases worldwide which could be prevented by vaccines," Ong-Lim said.
According to the Field Health Services Information System Report, about 31,395 Filipino children who are under 5 years old have died due to pneumonia in 2021. About 60,500 children were infected with the disease in 2022.
Pneumonia, which accounts for 14 percent of all deaths among children under 5 years old, is an cute respiratory infection affecting the lungs.
It is caused by bacteria, fungi or viruses and can be prevented by adequate nutrition, breastfeeding, immunization and management of environmental factors.
"Embracing practices learned from the pandemic such as wearing masks has been proven effective in preventing respiratory diseases like pneumonia," Philippine Foundation for Vaccination president Dr. Maria Rosario Capending said.
However, these health protocols may not be sustainable for common respiratory diseases like pneumonia.
"As early as 1.5 months after birth, infants and children should be protected from this deadly disease," she said.
To lower fatalities among children due to pneumonia, the Department of Health offers free pneumococcal vaccines against pneumonia and meningitis in health centers nationwide. (PNA)