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FAQs on COVID-19 and chronic medical conditions

Serious complications from COVID-19 are most likely to develop in elderly people, as well as those who have weakened immune systems, or who are immunocompromised.

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This illustration was created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Serious complications from COVID-19 are most likely to develop in elderly people, as well as those who have weakened immune systems, or who are immunocompromised, says infectious disease specialist Alan Taege, M.D. from Cleveland Clinic in the U.S.

When people are immunocompromised, their body has a reduced ability to fight off and recover from infections. This could be because they have a certain chronic condition that affects the immune system, or because of certain medications they are taking. For example, some cancer treatments and medications used for autoimmune conditions weaken a person’s immune response, as do medicines that people take after having an organ transplant.

Unfortunately, there is not yet a vaccine that can prevent COVID-19, so we cannot prevent the disease, but there are many things you can do to minimize your risk such as social distancing, frequent handwashing and routinely disinfect surfaces in your home, such as doorknobs, faucet handles and cell phones.

It is especially important for older adults and those with underlying medical conditions to avoid being exposed to the virus in the first place. It’s spread by droplets that come out the nose and mouth of someone who’s infected when they cough or sneeze, so you can get COVID-19 from being in close contact (within about 2 metres) with an infected person who has these symptoms. You might also be able to get it from touching a surface that’s been contaminated with infected droplets.

It is also important to maintain healthy habits, like eating well, getting enough sleep and managing your stress levels, in order to keep your immune system as strong as it can be.

Dr. Taege has answered some of the most common questions about protecting the most vulnerable populations:

Q: Who is most at-risk for getting severely sick from the coronavirus?

A: The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new, so we don’t yet understand exactly how it impacts specific groups of high-risk people. But those who are thought to be most susceptible to serious complications of COVID-19 include people who are older than 65, or are taking medications that suppress the immune system or suffer from conditions such as cancer, hypertension. lung disease, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions that compromise the immune system.

Q: Why are people over the age of 65 more at risk?

A: Our immune system naturally becomes weaker as we age, which makes it harder for our bodies to fight off infections.

Q: Should someone who is immunocompromised still go to medical appointments?

A: Call your healthcare provider and ask. Some appointments might be able to be rescheduled, or handled by phone, or if available, virtually through a telemedicine visit or by phone. Healthcare facilities are taking special precautions to protect the health and safety of patients during this time.

Q: Should someone on immunosuppressing medications stop taking them?

A: Do not stop taking your medications without talking to your healthcare provider first. Just as there is risk associated with having a compromised immune system, there is also risk associated with stopping medication suddenly and potentially having disease flares. If you have questions or concerns, or if you become sick, talk with your doctor.

Q: In addition to the advice on hygiene, social distancing and all of the other precautions given to the general public, what extra steps could a vulnerable person take to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak in the community?

A: Consider the following:

Ask your healthcare provider if it’s possible to get an advance supply of your medications, in case there is an outbreak in your community and you need to stay home for more than a few weeks. You can also ask your healthcare provider or pharmacy if ordering medications online and having them shipped to your home is an option.

Have enough groceries and household supplies on-hand so that you could comfortably stay home for a few weeks if you had to. Many grocers offer online ordering and delivery, which could also help you avoid having to go out.

Talk to your doctor to make sure you are up to date on your recommended vaccinations, such as the pneumonia and flu shots, which can help prevent those serious illnesses. These will not protect you against COVID-19, but they will protect you from other infections that could require you to seek medical care.

Make a plan for who will take care of you if you do get sick.

If you have a chronic condition and live alone, ask family members, friends or neighbors to check on you regularly during an outbreak. Ask them to call or contact you through email or social media.

Q: How can someone help a loved one who is in the high-risk category?

A: You can start by checking in on your love one’s well-being frequently via phone, email or social media. You might also consider:

Offering to pick up groceries or prescriptions and drop them off at your loved one’s doorstep so they do not have to go out.

Learning what medications your loved one is taking, and helping them get extra medication and supplies, if possible.

If your loved one is in a hospital or long-term care facility, check ahead of time to see if they have restrictions on visitation. And never visit when you’re sick.

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What you eat could contribute to your menstrual cramps

Roughly 90% of adolescent girls experience menstrual pain. Most use over-the-counter medicine to manage the pain but with limited positive results. Evidence has highlighted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, oil, and sugar reduce inflammation, a key contributor to menstrual pain.

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Despite the fact that menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) is the leading cause of school absences for adolescent girls, few girls seek treatment. An analysis of relevant studies suggests that diet may be a key contributor, specifically diets high in meat, oil, sugar, salt, and coffee, which have been shown to cause inflammation.

Roughly 90% of adolescent girls experience menstrual pain. Most use over-the-counter medicine to manage the pain but with limited positive results. Evidence has highlighted that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, oil, and sugar reduce inflammation, a key contributor to menstrual pain.

This analysis was designed to study the effect of diet on menstrual pain and identify which foods contribute to it and which can reduce it. Research was conducted through a literature review that found multiple studies that examined dietary patterns that resulted in menstrual pain. In general terms, these studies found that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids reduce it. The muscles in the uterus contract because of prostaglandins, which are active in inflammatory responses. When measuring the Dietary Inflammatory Index, it was found that those on a vegan diet (that excluded animal fat) had the lowest rates of inflammation.

“Researching the effects of diet on menstrual pain started as a search to remedy the pain I personally experienced; I wanted to understand the science behind the association. Learning about different foods that increase and decrease inflammation, which subsequently increase or reduce menstrual pain, revealed that diet is one of the many contributors to health outcomes that is often overlooked. I am hopeful that this research can help those who menstruate reduce the pain they experience and shed light on the importance of holistic treatment options,” says Serah Sannoh, lead author of the poster presentation from Rutgers University.

“Since menstrual pain is a leading cause of school absenteeism for adolescent girls, it’s important to explore options that can minimize the pain. Something like diet modification could be a relatively simple solution that could provide substantial relief for them,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director.

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Cultivating well-being in today’s evolving digital world

Manulife invites Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz to share lessons amid digitalization at IMMAP DigiCon Valley 2022.

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As Filipinos navigate today’s evolving digital world and adjust to life-changing disruptions brought by the pandemic, Manulife shared key lessons on how to cope with changes and cultivate one’s overall well-being at this year’s DigiCon Valley 2022, the largest gathering of the digital marketing and advertising industry in the country organized by the Internet & Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP).

Headlining Manulife’s segment were Melissa Henson, Chief Marketing Officer of Manulife Philippines and Hidilyn Diaz, Olympic Gold Medalist and one of Manulife’s brand ambassadors, while actor and stand-up comedian Victor Anastacio served as the host.

At the DigiCon’s special segment, Henson and Diaz shared their insights and personal takeaways based on Manulife’s recently released study, “The Modern Filipino Family: Exploring Family Dynamics in the new normal.” The study aimed to understand how Filipino families adapted to the new normal, as hyper-digitalization has impacted relationships, and has been deeply imbued in everyday decisions at home and in family life.

Make time for self-care and mental wellness

Victor Anastacio started the discussion on the challenges Filipinos faced at the height of the pandemic. “Sobrang daming challenges ang kinaharap natin noong nagsimula ang pandemic – physical, emotional and financial challenges. Lahat ito nakaapekto sa ating pamilya, dahil sa maraming hindi pagkakaintindihan.”

These challenges still impact majority of Filipinos today. While people across generations have said that their well-being has improved compared to during the peak of the pandemic, Generation Zs expressed that they are still grappling with negative pandemic effects. Henson shared: “Our study found that 65% of Gen Zs are dealing with digital fatigue, prompting them to seek more offline interactions with friends and family. They also shared that they are sleep-deprived, developed unhealthy eating habits and have increased occurrence of stress, fatigue, and depression. These younger Filipinos may need further guidance on reacquainting themselves in the real world as they have spent most of their time online in the past two years.”

Younger Filipinos may also look to Generation X and millennials for inspiration and ideas on how to deal with stressors. “Gens X and Y have learned to focus on self-care, mental well-being, and personal development, which helped empower them despite the many changes they’ve had to weather,” Henson added. 

Diaz agreed and emphasized that caring for one’s mental health has a tangible impact on one’s physical well-being too. “When I started training for the Tokyo Olympics, I needed to condition my mind that I could win at hindi ako nag-iisa sa pag-abot ng pangarap na ito. Naging malaking part ng aking preparations ang mental training at eventually, ang ‘”ma-manifest” ko na makakuha ng gold medal.”

Learn to seek help when needed

According to Manulife’s study, more Filipinos have also explored various financial products during the pandemic. In the past 12 months, among those surveyed, 25% of Generation X and 33% of Millennials bought insurance products online, while 41% of Generation Z expressed a desire to purchase insurance in the next 12 months. To guide them in their financial journey and make more informed decisions, Henson emphasized the importance of seeking expert advice to help sift through the overwhelming wealth of information available.

“Seeing how more Filipinos are exploring various financial channels to diversify their portfolios is a good sign that they are actively seeking ways to grow their wealth. However, we will need to double down our efforts to provide them expert financial guidance, so they’ll also understand how to balance risk and reward,” Henson said. “Seeking advice from a financial advisor is one way to help Filipinos get a clearer picture of their financial goals and find ways to achieve them while being conscious of their risk appetites to yield better returns.”

To achieve the historic Olympic gold medal, Diaz also underscored the importance of asking for help, by having people around you whom you can rely on for support. “There is a team behind my success. Hindi ko kakayanin ito ng mag-isa. I needed the support of Team HD, Manulife, at ng aking mga kababayan.

Life has no guarantees, but we can get ahead of uncertainty

The pandemic showed how fast things can change, and Filipinos must be ready to keep up with the pace as it can accelerate further. Such mindset and attitude transcend to Filipinos’ heightened desire for protection and security. “The interest in insurance products and life protection increased during the pandemic because Filipinos became hyper aware of the physical and financial impact of falling ill, and the broader impact of other financial challenges. However, this has been a reactive stance. The power of insurance and financial planning is that it helps us prepare for the unexpected before it happens, so we continue to encourage and empower Filipinos to embrace the value of planning ahead and being financially prepared,” said Henson.

To help Filipinos better prepare for uncertainty, Manulife launched a series of flexible and highly customizable financial solutions that can be tailor-fit depending on needs and budget — HealthFlex, which provides protection coverage for critical illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke; and FutureBoost, which gives additional rewards on top of insurance protection coverage so Filipinos can grow their wealth simultaneously.

As change is inevitable and developments can be beyond our control, Henson noted that it helps to live by an attitude of lifelong learning. “We are all learning creatures. We always find ways to retool ourselves to better cope with the changes in our environment, which is crucial to making us more resilient.”

Diaz added that just as essential is acquiring knowledge on how to plan ahead. “Having a strong foundation sa kung paano mag-plano para ma-achieve ang financial goals ay crucial para sa kinabukasan natin. Mahalaga na maging mas aware ka sa mga financial options available as early as possible para mas maintindihan ang mga kailangang gawin to achieve your goals. Once you decide to grow your investments, you’ll be more consistent with your decisions to make every day better.”

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Pfizer had no idea if mRNA vaccine would prevent COVID-19 transmission

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company expected to become a $100 billion giant this year thanks to COVID-19 drug and vaccine, has admitted that it actually had no idea if its mRNA vaccine would prevent transmission of the coronavirus when they released the same.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi from Unsplash.com

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company expected to become a $100 billion giant this year thanks to COVID-19 drug and vaccine, has admitted that it actually had no idea if its mRNA vaccine would prevent transmission of the coronavirus when they released the same.

One of Pfizer’s top executives, the company’s president of international development markets, Janine Small, stated this when she testified before the COVID committee of the European Parliament. Small was there in place of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla who tested positive for COVID-19 again.

In the exchange that happened in the committee hearing, a Dutch member of the European Parliament asked Small if there is evidence from Pfizer that showed that the vaccine it developed would prevent transmission prior to its wide release in late 2020.

“Was the Pfizer COVID vaccine tested on stopping the transmission of the virus before it entered the market? If not, please say it clearly. If yes, are you willing to share the data with this committee?” the member of parliament specifically asked.

The executive answered: “Regarding the question around, did we know about stopping immunization before it entered the market? No.”

Small added that “we had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is taking place in the market. And from that point of view, we had to do everything at risk.”

The Dutch politician said that messaging in the past focused on getting vaccinated to one does not spread COVID-19. “If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re anti-social! This is what the Dutch prime minister and health minister told us. You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself, but also for others — you do it for all of society. That’s what they said. Today, this turns out to be complete nonsense.”

The politician said he found the revelations “shocking, even criminal.”

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