Press Release
July 7, 2020

De Lima bats for free immunization to senior citizens

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to provide free immunizations that are deemed necessary to maintain the quality of life of senior citizens whom she said are all susceptible to viruses.

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1641 seeking to uphold social justice in the protection and promotion of the senior citizens' right to health by amending Section 4 of Republic Act (RA) No. 7432, as amended by RA No. 9257, and further amended By RA No. 9994, or the "Expanded Senior Citizens Act Of 2010."

"No less than the Constitution guarantees that the needs of the elderly in relation to their right to health shall be given priority by the State. Clearly, senior citizens belong to a special class of individuals for which the Constitution affords preferential concern," she said.

"Their growing number coupled with their susceptibilities has now made it vital for the State to make the promotion and protection of their health and well-being among its priority social legislations," she added.

The 2019 report by the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that the Philippines is "projected to transition to an aging population between 2025-2030."

Dr. Joel Santiaguel, a pulmonologist at the Philippine General Hospital, has earlier emphasized that adults, particularly senior citizens, "are 100 times more likely than children to die of diseases that vaccines can prevent."

Meanwhile, Commission on Population and Development Director Juan Antonio Perez underscored the need "to develop policies, address developmental issues that affect the older population before it is too late" during a January 2019 hearing of the Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development which De Lima chairs.

Under SB. No. 1641, De Lima said she seeks to ensure that that the health of senior citizens is ensured by providing free vaccination against the Influenza virus, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussi and Pneumococcal disease, and other similarly approved vaccinations by the Department of Health (DOH) for the maintenance of their quality of life.

"This bill will be the most apt response to the need to safeguard the elderly amidst a pandemic that targets their already vulnerable sector. Instead of merely locking them in their homes, the State must advocate for measures that will ensure the health and safety of the elderly with the least burden on their part," she said. "Senior citizens who have once contributed to society should not be merely consigned to oblivion - their rights and welfare must be upheld and protected. Safeguarding seniors is the least we can do to repay them for helping us build our nation," she added. De Lima, who has continued to advocate for the improved welfare for senior citizens in the country, pointed out that protecting the elderly is tantamount to protecting the general welfare.

"Providing free immunization to all senior citizens will not only give them an added layer of defense, it will also prevent the healthcare system from being overburdened by the influx of the number of cases that could have otherwise been avoided with immunization," she said.

De Lima is likewise the author of SB No. 1434, filed last April, which seeks to legislate guaranteed protection against abuse for the elderly, including appropriate penalties for their abusers.

It can be recalled that De Lima, a senior citizen herself (60 years old) and a grandmother, has sponsored and co-authored Republic Act No. 11350, which was passed into law last year. The law creates the National Commission of Senior Citizens, a new agency dedicated to the promotion of the rights and welfare of senior citizens.

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