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Tokwifi named best film in Cinemalaya 2020 - BusinessWorld Online
FILIPINA filmmakers took the majority of the awards at the 16th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival with Carla Pulido Ocampos Tokwifi winning Best Film. Tokwifi, a short film about a Bontoc Igorot meeting and falling in love with an actress from the 1950s stuck inside an old TV set, won not only the Best Film award but also the NETPAC Jury Prize. The films Best Film citation read that ithad won For its highly original take on love between two persons coming from different areas and worlds, and how identity and tradition could best be bridged by common humanity. The decision was unanimous according to filmmaker and film producer Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, chairman of this years Cinemalaya jury, during the awarding ceremonies held via Zoom on Aug. 12. The jurors also lauded the films magical but very convincing depiction of how women are boxed into stereotypes by television and how cultural communities are reduced into backward primitivism by the media. Joanna Vasquez Arongs contemplative take on the destruction brought upon by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in 2013, Ang Papakalma sa Unos(To Calm the Pig Inside), won the Special Jury Prize in this years Cinemalaya. The film won For its moving account through the eyes of a child of the ravages wrought by the strongest typhoon ever recorded in human history, the films citation read. The jury also took note of the films poignant poetry. The Best Direction award was given to Martika Ramirez Escobar who directed Living Things, for being able to weave a whimsical, convincing tale of how two people in love [face] the challenges of change [with] even more love and devotion. Aside from it being a big night for women filmmakers, it was also a big night for filmmakers from the regions outside the National Capital Region. Tokwifi is from Bontoc, Mountain Province; Ang Papakalma sa Unos is from Cebu and featured Tacloban, Leyte, and Guian, Eastern Samar; Quing Lalam Ning Aldo(Under the Sun) by Reeden Fajardo, which won the Audience Choice Award, is from Pampanga; and Pabasa kan Pasyon by Hubert Tibi, which won Best Screenplay, is from Albay. This years Cinemalaya jury was headed by Ms. Hereniko with filmmakers Sari Dalena and Raymond Red as members. Cinemalaya continues its run until Aug. 16 online via Vimeo. For tickets and access to the films, visitcinemalaya.org/tickets. Tickets are priced from P75 for a film bundle to a P350 premium pass. Below is the complete list of winners: Best Film: Tokwifi by Carla Pulido Ocampo Special Jury Prize: Ang Papakalma sa Unos (To Calm the Pig Inside) by Joanna Vasquez Arong Best Direction: Martika Ramirez Escobar for Living Things NETPAC Jury Prize: Tokwifi by Carla Pulido Ocampo Best Screenplay: Pabasa Kan Pasyon by Hubert Tibi Audience Choice Award: Quing Lalam Ning Aldo (Under the Sun) by Reeden Fajardo. Z.B. Chua
Breakdowns - BusinessWorld Online
As the number of the infected swells and threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system, the countrys medical frontliners have wisely called for the reassessment and reform of what passes for the Duterte regimes anti-COVID-19 strategy. But they did not include in their proposals the need to address the possibility that we may also be in the middle of a mental health crisis that will quite possibly have a long-term impact on Philippine society. The physical and mental well-being of its people is after all among a nations chief assets, since only mentally healthy citizens can function as productive and responsible members of the community. As entire economic systems break down, and recessions and even a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s become more and more likely, not only unemployment and want have distressed millions in the heels of the COVID-19 crisis. Since it declared the contagion a global pandemic last March, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning the countries afflicted and the world at large that among its consequences will be a spike in mental health problems. The problems referred to include anxiety disorders, panic attacks, psychoses, clinical depression and even suicidal tendencies. In its report last May on the extent of the COVID-19 problem and its prognosis for the future, the WHO not only warned that the disease may not go away, its Mental Health Department also noted during its virtual conference with health ministers in Geneva, Switzerland that COVID-19 is leading to a global mental health crisis that has to be addressed urgently. The Department Director said that the isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil that are among the consequences of the global pandemic all cause psychological stress. As a result, the world should expect an increase in mental illness, especially among children, young people and health workers. The unique characteristics of the disease, and hence the steps being taken to combat it, make it particularly conducive to mental distress. The quarantine protocols needed to control it, among them working, teaching and learning from home, limiting physical mobility and avoiding crowds, have made the isolation that leads to loneliness, fear, despair and hopelessness the primary condition of existence for millions of people all over the planet. Because COVID-19 can be transmitted primarily through human-to-human contact, even if a vaccine were found, the fundamental preventive means of avoiding the company of others at times including not only friends, neighbors, co-workers and associates, but even members of ones immediate family will continue to be among the preferred approaches to controlling the contagion, as contrary to the basic human need for companionship and social interaction as it may be. In recognition of the long-term impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the worlds populations, the United Nations has urged governments to improve their capacity to minimize the mental health consequences of the pandemic by 1.) adopting a-whole-of-society approach to promote, protect and care for mental health; 2.) ensuring the widespread availability of emergency mental health and psychosocial support; and, 3.) enhancing citizens recovery from COVID-19 by building mental health services for the future. The first requires, among others, including mental health concerns in whatever national response plan a government may have, and reducing the number of incidents that harm mental well-being such as the acute impoverishment of its constituents. The second includes strengthening social cohesion by helping those isolated at home to stay connected with others, and protecting the human rights of those with mental health issues by making sure they have access to appropriate care. The third demands raising the capacity of governments to deal with mental health problems by investing in the reform of universal healthcare networks, which among others means including mental health among their priority concerns. These are only a few of the recommended programs of action the UN recommends; there are several others. But even the implementation of these few is in the Philippines already problematic. The punitive, arrest-and-jail-them-all orientation of the Duterte regime in dealing with the pandemic not only contributes to the spread of the disease by packing alleged violators of quarantine protocols into the countrys notoriously overcrowded prisons. It even adds to the fear and anxiety of much of the population. There is also the already acute impoverishment of millions of disemployed Filipinos that the regime is unable to remedy due to the many difficulties among them the corruption, inefficiency and sheer incompetence of many of its own officials it has admitted it has had to cope with in controlling the economic impact of the pandemic on the citizenry. Filipino psychiatrists have not been remiss in alerting the public and the government to the looming if not already existing mental health problem and have reported a notable increase in the number of consultations during the pandemic. But neither the citizenry nor the Duterte regime seems to regard it with any sense of urgency. Their indifference is consistent with mental healths being least prioritized in Philippine governance and society. Part of the reason is the persistence of the thinking that those with mental health issues are somehow at fault and are to be shunned, despised, and even publicly humiliated and ridiculed. And yet the problem is more common than mass and official prejudice seems to assume, and, as the WHO has cautioned, is thus likely to worsen. Even before the pandemic, according to the Department of Health, 5.3% of the Philippines 100 million plus population, or more than five million people, were already suffering from various forms of depressive disorders. Some 16% of students in their teens, a WHO study found in 2011, have contemplated suicide, while still others have actually attempted it once or even several times. Such anecdotal evidence as the incidents of random, meaningless violence, and of individuals clambering up billboards and high-rise buildings and threatening to jump from them; the half-naked human derelicts one often sees roaming the streets mumbling to unseen beings; the suicides among the young that have become so common they merit only a casual mention in much of the media; and the fact that many Filipinos have a weird relative or two somewhere whom the family never mentions, support these findings. But the even worse news is that there are only a few thousand clinical psychiatrists in the Philippines, and mental health institutions few, inadequately staffed and funded, and absent in many areas. It seems only reasonable to expect that in addition to devising effective means to halt or at least reduce the transmission of COVID-19, mitigating the economic impact of the pandemic and recovering from the economic recession, the government should also seriously look into reducing the mental health costs of the current public health emergency. It can start with implementing what is doable among the steps the United Nations has suggested governments should take. It will admittedly take some doing in this country. But any government aware of its responsibility to protect its citizens and prevent the breakdown of Philippine society should be able to understand that it has no choice but to address the problem before it, too, becomes as widespread and as unmanageable as the social injustice, the mass poverty, the corruption in high places, the oppression and the inequality that, like the threat of COVID-19, haunt this country and its people. Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro). www.luisteodoro.com
FamilyMart boosts support for SMEs - BusinessWorld Online
RETAIL CHAIN FamilyMart said on Tuesday that it had opened its doors and lent its store shelves to entrepreneurs to bring in and feature their products in a campaign that aims to boost support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The campaign, called #WeSupportSME, seeks to bridge consumers back to SMEs by connecting them through FamilyMarts retail network, while at the same time widening the stores offerings. We want to help the local economy by promoting SMEs while also being of service to our customers. We consider suppliers and vendors as part of our family as well true to the spirit of our tagline #WeGotchuFam, said Bernie Suiza, general manager of FamilyMart Philippines. The retail chain said one of its best-selling products that suffered a setback during the initial enhanced community quarantine was its cookies, whose supplier had to halt production. It said it had devised ways to bring the cookies back after insistent demand from customers for the baked treats. FamilyMart partnered with Aperitif, a local restaurant known for its iconic Cheese and Cold Cuts Graze Boxes, as one of the pioneer SMEs under the campaign by featuring the entrepreneurs popular Ooey Gooey Cookie selections in-store.
Meralco seeks delay of 1800-MW power - BusinessWorld Online
MANILA ELECTRIC CO. (Meralco) requested to defer the conduct of a competitive selection process (CSP) to procure 1,800 megawatts (MW) of power supply. Last week, the Department of Energy (DoE) disclosed to reporters that the listed utility wanted to proceed with the bidding process in October as the pandemic pushed it to further move its timeline. Yung request nila (Their request) was actually to delay it; (by) October na sila magsimula ng CSP (They would start the CSP by October), Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola said. Earlier, the company said it requested to move the basis forecast year for the supply procurement to 2022 from 2020, assuming that fuel prices would normalize by that time. That will provide a level-playing field for all generators and will ensure there will be more competition in the CSP, Meralco Regulatory Affairs Head Jose Ronald V. Valles said. Of course, that will assure us that the rate will be competitive for our customers, he added. The DoE does not want the utility to further delay the conduct of the bidding, which it already approved. In a reply that Meralco has yet to receive, the department tasked Meralco to look for other platforms to hold the process. What were trying to say is to explore other medium to able to proceed (to) be able to hit the target of delivery of supply, Mr. Delola said. The latest CSP is Meralcos third attempt in sourcing greenfield capacity. We have not yet received a copy of the reply, but we will immediately endorse it to the TPBAC (Third Party Bids and Awards Committee) as soon as we get it, Meralco Utility Economics Head Lawrence S. Fernandez told the publication. In September last year, the company declared its 1,200-MW CSP from upcoming power plants a failure as Meralco Powergen Corp.s Atimonan One Energy, Inc. only came up with an offer. The DoE later signed off its second round of bidding which was opened for all generators, both old and new. Meralco then delayed the process due to disruptions caused by the pandemic. Finally, it is set to proceed with an updated program that seeks to bid an additional 600 MW from the 1,500-MW baseload supply that is scheduled for bidding this year. Meralcos controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. Adam J. Ang
BSP sees no reason for further easing - BusinessWorld Online
By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is not inclined to cut rates further at this time and will likely keep rates steady in the next quarters, BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said on Monday. There is no compelling reason why the BSP has to move sooner on further policy cuts at this time. Monetary policy works with a lag so our reading is that our aggressive monetary policies have yet to be digested by the market, Mr. Diokno said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel. The Philippines plunged into recession for the first time since 1991 after gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 16.5% in the second quarter. Economic activity collapsed as the government implemented one of the worlds strictest and longest lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The central bank already slashed rates by a total of 175 basis (bps) points this year, with the latest cut worth 50 bps unleashed at the June 24 Monetary Board (MB) policy meeting. This reduced the overnight reverse repurchase, lending, and deposit rates to record lows of 2.25%, 2.75%, and 1.75%, respectively. Mr. Diokno said keeping rates unchanged for the rest of the year is a possibility. In fact, the current monetary policy stance will probably hold for the next few quarters because as I said, we have acted decisively in anticipation of the crisis, he said. Mr. Diokno was asked regarding the next policy action of the MB for its Aug. 20 meeting, given he has previously said the sharp contraction in the second-quarter GDP is temporary and will not hurt the countrys macroeconomic fundamentals. The 16.5% contraction of Q2 GDP does not mean that the Philippine economy is structurally weak. It is inappropriate to compare the Q2 performance of the economy with other crises in recent Philippine history, Mr. Diokno said in a text message. Mr. Diokno said the country used to belong to a select group called heavily indebted countries in the 1980s which is not similar to its standing today. The Philippine economy, he said, is backed by a strong peso, low interest rate environment, ample dollar reserves, and low debt-to-GDP ratio. The economy plunged because of the strict nationwide lockdown to save lives and to allow the buildup of health facilities and testing capacity due to the pandemic. It is not because the economy is weak, he said. The previous policy cut, which was a pre-emptive anticipation of the steeper Q2 GDP contraction, may have yet to work its way into the financial system, said Security Bank Corp. Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces. Probably the monetary authorities will seek to preserve its ammunition for the time being while confidence levels stay low and an adequate fiscal stimulus response is being discussed in Congress, Mr. Roces said in a text message. Meanwhile, Euben Paracuelles and Rangga Cipta, analysts at Nomura Global Markets Research, are pricing in further easing due to delays in enacting a sizable fiscal support package, as the government looks to be placing higher priority on longer-term reforms. Despite some indications from the governor that the BSP may pause, we still forecast a 25bp policy rate cut to 2% in Q3, and add another 50bp in cuts in Q4, which would take the policy rate to 1.5% by year-end. We believe the Q2 growth outturn disappointing official forecasts and a weaker economic outlook, as reflected in the governments downward revision of its 2020 GDP growth forecast range and the risk of a fiscal cliff in H2, should support further monetary easing by BSP, Nomura analysts said in a report. Emmanuel J. Lopez, economist and dean at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Graduate School, said the central bank should continue its aggressive easing to boost market sentiment during the recession. I believe Mr. Diokno should employ further cuts in the policy rates to ease the effects of the recession, to attract borrowing and investment plus consumer spending, Mr. Lopez said in a text message. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed household spending, which makes up 70% of the economy, slumped by 15.5% in Q2, a reversal from the 5.6% expansion a year ago. Meanwhile, private investment or capital formation plummeted by 53.5% which was its worst since the 54.6% decline in the first quarter of 1985.
Gov't raises P20B from T-bills - BusinessWorld Online
THE GOVERNMENT made a full award of the Treasury bills (T-bills) auctioned off on Monday as rates eased across-the-board amid strong liquidity. The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) borrowed P20 billion as planned on Monday via the T-bills as the offer was thrice oversubscribed, with bids reaching P60.298 billion. It also opened the tap facility to offer P5 billion in one-year T-bills to borrow more at the low rates offered by investors. The BTr raised P5 billion as planned via the 91-day debt papers out of P16.935 billion in bids. The three-month papers fetched an average rate of 1.113%, down 10.8 basis points (bps) from the 1.221% logged in the auction last week. It also made a full P5-billion award of the 182-day T-bills as total tenders hit P17.078 billion. The average rate of the six-month papers slid 6.8 bps to 1.386% from 1.454% previously. For the 364-day securities, the Treasury fully awarded the programmed P10 billion out of bids worth P26.285 billion. The one-year instruments were quoted at an average rate of 1.746%, down 0.3 bp from the previous rate of 1.749%. The auction was met with strong demand as investors continue to prefer short-term safe-haven assets, National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said, even as the public offer of retail Treasury bonds (RTBs) just ended last week. Continued strong buying interest on front end of curve at lower rates amidst RTB record issuance, Ms. De Leon told reporters via Viber on Monday. The Treasury sold a record P516.3 billion in five-year RTBs amid strong demand boosted by online sales. The papers carry a coupon of 2.625% per annum and will be issued on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Despite the BTrs announcement of a record breaking RTB issuance in terms of volume and BSP Governor Dioknos pronouncements of a pause in monetary easing, demand for T-bills carried on as expected, Kevin Palma, peso sovereign debt trader of Robinsons Bank Corp., said in a Viber message. Same narrative from previous weeks and months that dealers and investors continue to deploy their excess cash to short-term papers while waiting for leads surrounding the pandemic, Mr. Palma said. The virus is still very much at large with no signs of slowing down. Until then, risk aversion will perisist which will benefit demand for government securities. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said in a television interview on Monday that there is no compelling reason for the central bank to ease benchmark interest rates further since monetary policy works with a lag. The economy contracted by 16.5% in the second quarter, taking the first-half average to -9%. Economic managers project a 4.5% to 6.6% decline in gross domestic product (GDP) this year. The Treasury is set to borrow P30 billion in reissued 10-year Treasury bonds (T-bonds) on Tuesday. The notes bear a coupon of 2.875% and have a remaining life of nine years and 11 months. The government has set a P170-billion borrowing program for August. It will offer P110 billion in T-bills weekly and P60 billion in T-bonds to be auctioned off fortnightly. It borrows from local and foreign lenders to plug its budget deficit seen to hit 9.6% of GDP this year. It plans to borrow around P3 trillion this year. B.M. Laforga
Subic Freeport Expressway project 50% complete - BusinessWorld Online
NLEX CORP. said Monday that its P1.6-billion Subic Freeport Expressway (SFEx) capacity expansion project, which is expected to ease travel to and from the freeport zone, is now 50% complete. Construction activities are in various stages of development and seen to be completed by the end of the year, NLEX Corp. said in a statement. The project involves the construction of two additional expressway lanes, two new spans at the Jadjad and Argonaut bridges, and a new tunnel adjacent to the existing one, transforming the road into a four-lane expressway, it added. NLEX Corp. expects the transport of goods in and out of the Subic Freeport to be faster and simpler once it completes the project. Subic is home to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, serving as a major port for Central and North Luzon. By increasing the road capacity of SFEx, which traverses the provinces of Bataan and Zambales, transport of goods in and out of the Subic Freeport will be faster and easier. This would also mean that the expressway can accommodate more motorists at a given time, NLEX Corp. President and General Manager J. Luigi L. Bautista was quoted as saying. The company said it has partnered with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to include in the project scope the raising of elevation of the Maritan Highway-Rizal and Highway-Tipo Road Junction and enhancing its drainage system to improve flood management in the area. The SFEx expansion is also expected to make Subic a more viable tourist and investment destination because of improved connectivity. NLEX Corp. is a unit of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. Its parent Metro Pacific Investments Corp. is one of three key Philippine units of Hong Kongs First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. Arjay L. Balinbin
Stocks to drop as market awaits gov't plan on virus - BusinessWorld Online
By Denise A. Valdez, Senior Reporter LOCAL SHARES are expected to move sideways this week with a downward bias as investors continue to look for indicators that would determine the fate of businesses after the lockdown. The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) dropped 56.56 points or 0.95% to close at 5,846.02 on Friday. On a weekly basis, the PSEi was down 82.43 points or 1.39% to extend its losses for the fifth consecutive week. Value turnover increased 66% to an average of P7.03 billion, but net foreign selling grew more than three times to an average of P1.79 billion. Sessions were generally volatile during the week, as markets reacted to the second quarter economic contraction and July inflation, online brokerage 2TradeAsia.com said in a market note. The government reported last week that the economy shrank 16.5% in the second quarter, marking its deepest decline on record and officially plunging the Philippines into recession. The decline was worse than most had anticipated and concerns continue to mount as Metro Manila and key areas have been put back on tighter quarantine measures for two weeks until Aug. 18. Moves to raise hospital capacity and isolation zones would help appease concerns on the local economys ability to handle (the pandemic), 2TradeAsia.com said. It noted the reimposition of a stricter lockdown is a response to the growing coronavirus cases, which can only be subdued by strategic plans on health infrastructure supportwhile waiting for vaccines. The Philippines now leads Southeast Asia on the highest number of coronavirus infections at 126,885 as of Saturday. The bulk of new cases come from Metro Manila, or 2,669 out of the 4,226 new cases. Aside from coronavirus numbers and macroeconomic data, companies have also been releasing their second-quarter earnings reports in the past weeks. But 2TradeAsia.com said investors are rather looking at capital expenditure (capex) plans. Preliminary indications on sequel months capex initiative remain hazy for most, and remains attuned with the lifting of quarantine measures. What is certain, however, is that resumption of aggressive capex plans are seen in 2021-2022, it said. All these elements, along with global events such as the ongoing tension between the United States and China, may continue weighing on investor sentiment this week, Philstocks Financial, Inc. Senior Research Analyst Japhet Louis O. Tantiangco said. [W]e are currently in a recession and getting out of this is something we dont see in the near future The markets trading range for (the coming) week is seen to be from 5,700 to 6,100, he said in a text message. 2TradeAsia.com is putting the markets range within 5,500 to 6,000 this week.
MPIC head keen on COVID-19 vaccines - BusinessWorld Online
BUSINESSMAN Manuel V. Pangilinan said his group is interested in talking to pharmaceutical companies for a possible reservation deal once a coronavirus vaccine becomes available. Recently, weve gotten calls from pharmaceutical companies whether we will be interested in making reservations for potentially the vaccines that could be developed, hopefully by them, so we said, Yes we are interested to talk, he said at a virtual briefing on Aug. 6. The hospital unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), which Mr. Pangilinan chairs, has been preparing to purchase the vaccines for distribution in their hospitals, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said in his recent column in The Philippine Star, citing a conversation with the businessman. Confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country have reached over 120,000, according to the Health department. Mr. Pangilinan said the group was doing everything it could to help the government fight the coronavirus pandemic. Its a big effort on the part of the group to help the government. We are part of the process, in our own small way, of addressing the issues related to the virus, he said. He was also concerned about the effects of the contraction of the countrys gross domestic product in the second quarter. This 16.5% contraction is worrisome. How will the third and fourth quarters behave moving forward? Will it have an impact on peoples ability to spend on telco products? How will the enterprise sector be affected by this contraction? So these are worrisome issues for us because they could very well affect our revenues moving forward, Mr. Pangilinan said, referring to PLDT, Inc., in which he is president and chief executive officer. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said last month the government was planning to allocate P20 billion for the purchase of vaccines. He said the government would need to vaccinate for free a minimum of 20 million Filipinos. The Philippine International Trading Corp. will be in charge of purchasing the vaccines, which will be distributed by the Health department, Mr. Dominguez said. Philippine Ambassador to London Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo has also said the government is interested in the experimental vaccines developed by Oxford University. China, according to President Rodrigo R. Duterte, will give priority to the Philippines once it successfully develops a vaccine. In May, the United States ordered 300 million doses of AstraZenecas experimental coronavirus vaccine, while the United Kingdom ordered 90 million doses of potential vaccines from various drug makers, including Pfizer, Inc. MPIC is one of three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kongs First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. Arjay L. Balinbin
Why getting a flu shot is important during a COVID-19 pandemic - BusinessWorld Online
AS HEALTH workers called for stricter protocols to lighten their load in an overwhelmed healthcare system, there is one thing you can do to help: get vaccinated. A recent webinar called Protect the Elderly by the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV) called to continue immunization during the community quarantines and prioritize the elderly. The webinar focused on the administration of influenza (or flu) vaccines to the elderly, a particularly vulnerable sector. Among the vulnerable populations that can benefit the most from these vaccines are the elderly, said Dr. Liza Gonzales, president of the PFV. These vaccines protect against infectious diseases that have the potential to weaken the immune system and increase susceptibility to COVID-19. Many studies have documented that a previous viral infection like flu can precede the development of severe bacterial pneumonia leading to hospitalization, and even death. Internist and Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Arthur Dessi Roman gave various reasons as to why the elderly are particularly susceptible to the flu, and thus more in need of the flu vaccine. As we grow older, our immune system also grows old. Unfortunately, the capability of the immune system to respond is not as good anymore as when we are young, he said. Among the other reasons he listed were the presence of comorbid illnesses such as heart and lung disease and diabetes. People with diabetes experience more serious outcomes following a flu infection. He presented data saying that diabetic patients have three to six times higher risks of being hospitalized due to flu-related causes, four times as high the risk of being admitted to the ICU, and six times as high the risk for death. Other reasons he gave include physical changes such as a weaker cough and gag reflex (the cough response is to prevent contaminants from entering the respiratory tract), poor nutrition, impaired understanding and self-care, increased contact with medical facilities, and the use of medical devices. All of these things contribute to the reasons why the elderly population are actually at risk of getting infected with a lot of bacteria, viruses, and fungal infections, said Dr. Roman. He then highlighted why getting vaccinated against the flu during a pandemic of another sort is still important. I want to remind everyone that flu vaccination matters even more during this time, he said. According to him, being protected against the flu will prevent an infection with symptoms similar to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), avoiding anxiety and stress. The flu can also weaken the immune system, thus opening the door for a possible COVID-19 infection. He also said that a co-infection with COVID-19 and the flu is possible, which leads to more serious complications. Finally, he noted that it avoids additional hospitalization and consultations when hospitals are already overwhelmed. He said that in the US, the flu vaccine decreased consultation for flu-related causes by up to 60%. Staying healthy is your best shot against preventing COVID-19 infections. Receiving the flu vaccine is not just about ourselves, he said in a mix of Tagalog and English. Also, remember that getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you. Contact a doctor to administer the flu shot at your home or some other location, instead of setting up an appointment at the hospital. Joseph L. Garcia