Last year, the country’s immunization rate plunged to 40 percent from an average of 70 percent in recent years.
Duterte to campaign for immunization
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid a measles outbreak, President Duterte is taking a direct hand in the information campaign that seeks to restore the public’s confidence in the government’s immunization program, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Martin Andanar said the President would deliver a message about the importance of immunization in one of his speeches.

“I heard the President will help (Health Secretary Francisco Duque III) bring back the people’s trust in the Department of Health’s immunization program and the President himself will help in the communications,” Andanar told state-run Radyo Pilipinas last Saturday.

“I think he will say something in one of the coming events,” he added.

Andanar said his agency would “actively support” the health department’s information campaign.

“We will assist them in their vaccination program, which was affected by the issue on Dengvaxia… other immunization programs were also affected. Several illnesses like measles and pneumonia could have been avoided (if children were given immunization),” Andanar said.

Last year, the country’s immunization rate plunged to 40 percent from an average of 70 percent in recent years. Officials have blamed the drop on the Dengvaxia controversy, which erupted after it was disclosed that the vaccine may have placed recipients who never had dengue fever at risk of contracting more severe diseases.

Duque has attributed the measles outbreak in various parts of the country to the panic caused by the Dengvaxia fiasco.

Last week, Duterte ordered agencies to launch a “vigorous” information campaign to promote the government’s immunization program.

Compulsory vaccination

Members of the House of Representatives yesterday called on officials to stop blaming each other for the measles outbreak in the country, but work instead to restore the trust of Filipinos in the government’s vaccination programs.

“Right now, the most important message – the only message – that we need to be hearing from everyone is to assure the mothers. Convince the mothers to have their children vaccinated,” House Deputy Speaker Rep. Pia Cayetano said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“As we are talking, while we are pointing fingers, debating, babies are dying,” the representative from Taguig, who will be seeking re-election in the Senate in the May 13 polls, told reporters in an interview in La Trinidad, Benguet over the weekend.

Cayetano, principal author and sponsor of the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization law or Republic Act 10152, stressed that there is an urgent need to end the “general feeling of distrust” among parents toward the government’s mandatory immunization program.

“Since I heard the news about the measles outbreak I stress its need when I talk to mothers, hoping to give them that sense of confidence to have their children vaccinated,” Cayetano said.

Reps. Mikee Romero of party-list 1Pacman, Bernadette Dy of Bagong Henerasyon, Neil Abayon of Aangat Tayo party-list, Salvador Belaro Jr. of 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list and Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list also made a similar call.

“Time is of the essence. This (blame game) is the last thing we need at this point. Let’s help one another in fighting this outbreak. We need all the help we can get. Now is the time to put up a united front so that our children will be safe,” Romero said.

Dy, aware of Australia’s report that a child from Manila carried the virus to them, called for civil aviation protocols to screen airline passengers to keep the virus from spreading.

“The objective now is to keep the measles from spreading to the rest of the country, world,” Dy said.

Abayon, a registered nurse by profession, asked the health department to make public the names of areas where there are confirmed cases of measles so that local government officials will be able to make the appropriate measures against its spread.

Belaro urged the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education to direct all school officials to take precautions against measles for the health and safety of their students and faculty.

“Schools can be hotspots of the spread of measles and other contagious diseases because of population density and vulnerability of children and teenagers because of their health status, so precautions are necessary,” Belaro said.

Salo, for his part, said poor families with members infected with measles can avail themselves of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. coverage for indigents. He urged families to immediately go to hospitals when they see the symptoms of measles among their household.

“PhilHealth will be there for the indigent families. Measles is covered by PhilHealth. It is important for doctors to examine and cure the patients. Life and health are precious,” Salo said in English and Filipino. – With Delon Porcalla

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