OUR apologies to our readers our issue is vaccination and not food supplements as indicated in the last weekend newspaper. The author has been deluged by request- texted, called in, verbal- by many especially by our senior citizens who availed of a greatly-discounted vaccination at Mercury drug outlets notably Porta Vaga on 2nd and last Friday of May. From all measures, based on the turnout of interested and eager citizens, the vaccination program was a huge success, so much so that there is a request for a repeat activity in the near future.

First things first. A vaccine is an attenuated or weakened portion of a microbe which when introduced - orally or injectable - into an organism- animal, human - will be identified right away as a " stranger, foreign body, non-self or an enemy- or in medical parlance, an antigen. Thus, the normal response of our body is to "fight" the invading stranger or enemy by producing antibodies to either neutralize or even destroy or kill the invader. Therefore, when that particular microbe - virus.

Bacteria- attacks, by then our own body should be able to fight off the disease.

With the MERsCoV problem in Saudi and probably in nearby Middle East nations very much in the news, it is understandable that our citizenry has developed fear bordering on hypochondriasis about possibility of epidemic- very much like the SARS issue a few years back which bothered Hongkong and Singapore residents. Specialists say that at the moment, there is no curenor vaccine for the MERS-CoV thus, the logical thing to do is to strengthen one's immunity.

Influenza, more commonly known as flu or in local dialect trangkaso, is caused by a virus. The disease could affect the same individual 3-4 times a year depending on his natural resistance and lifestyle. The patient complains of fever, generalized malaise- muscle and joint pains- which may be accompanied by other upper respiratory tract infection like mild sore throat, cough and nasal congestion. Yearly, flu vaccinnation is recommended to help protect the so-called high-risk persons which include those 50 years old and above, those younger than 50 but are affected by other co-morbidities particularly diabetes mellitus, hypertension, chronic obstructive lung disease like emphysema, thjose on steroid therapy. of course, health care providers- nurses, doctors, midwives, med techs and care givers. In the Philippines, usually the best time for a flu vaccine is between February and June, that is before the rainy season comes.

As for the flu vaccine, do not be surprise if your friendly family physician tells you, he/she is still waiting for the right vaccine to arrive. Indeed, in the past years, viruses have mutated or changed so much sothat a vaccine for influenza would greatly differe depending on the location of the country where the person lives. That's why, among doctors, especially pediatricians, their conversation about vaccines may inlcude the words, Northern or Southern hemisphere strain of the virus.

Next Week: Pneumonia and Other Vaccines