DOH: Measles outbreak by next year unless vaccine rates improve

DOH: Measles outbreak by next year unless vaccine rates improve
Children aged 5 to 11 years old, accompanied by their guardians, receive COVID-19 vaccine jabs at the Marikina Sports Complex on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, the fifth day of pediatric vaccination in Metro Manila.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino children might see an outbreak of measles as soon as the start of next year if low immunization rates do not pick up in the coming months, the Department of Health warned Tuesday.

At a media forum Tuesday afternoon, DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the department was in talks with the World Health Organization, which recommended intensified routine immunization after it found that nearly 1 million children in the country did not have a single dose of a vaccine in the past two years, which left them susceptible to transmission.

Citing DOH data, Vergeire said that out of a target of 95-percent immunization, only 62.9% of children and infants in the country were fully immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases. Almost 3 million children did not have measles vaccination, she also said.

“It’s low…There might be an impending outbreak of measles in the country by next year if we are not going to do anything,” she said, adding that the figures so far were much lower than coverage in previous years.

“We need to strengthen our routine immunization…we need a whole of government and whole of society approach in this problem.”

According to Vergeire, the main problems besides the hesitancy of parents included pandemic-induced restrictions that stopped parents from leaving their homes.

“Hesitancy is still there but in our view, with the right information and the cooperation of each stakeholder, we can convince our parents to have their children vaccinated in our routine immunization to protect them from diseases,” Vergeire said in mixed Filipino and English.

Children still under threat of COVID-19

Vergeire also quelled concerns of a coronavirus surge caused by the return to face-to-face classes, saying cases will naturally go up because mobility is increasing while the virus is still around. 

According to DOH data, 1,967 new cases — 869 of which were from Metro Manila — along with 29 deaths, and 2,604 recoveries were recorded Monday afternoon. 14.1% of tests around the country are coming out positive. 

The DOH OIC pointed out that there are surveillance and safety officers deployed in schools to monitor if classes are causing the spread of COVID-19. 

"As soon as someone gets sick, they get sent home or referred to the city's health unit...If there is a positive case in a school, our protocol of course is to isolate that learner who got sick," she said in Filipino. 

"If we get to a point where we see that admissions in hospitals are increasing, that's the time that we will rethink our policy. But for now, everyone is being given guidance that we all have to do our efforts to be protected."




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