WHO alarmed over high measles cases in Philippines

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
WHO alarmed over high measles cases in Philippines
The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 17,289 measles cases from January to November this year.

MANILA, Philippines — The World Health Organization (WHO) is alarmed over the high incidence of measles in the Philippines, saying the cases could have been prevented by vaccination. 

“We are concerned with the situation because there are many cases of measles... that could have been avoided if we achieved higher vaccination coverage in the past years,” Gundo Weiler, WHO representative to the Philippines, told reporters on the sidelines of a media forum organized by the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines yesterday.

The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 17,289 measles cases from January to November this year.

The figure is almost five times higher than the 3,706 cases recorded during the same period last year.

Earlier this month, at least 18 persons, mostly children, died of suspected measles in a remote village in Malapatan, Sarangani.

Weiler said “vaccine confidence” in the Philippines declined from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent this year.

He said the Dengvaxia controversy affected public trust in the vaccination program. 

“Too many people are asking questions not only on the efficacy but also on the safety of vaccination... The trust in vaccination has been challenged,” Weiler said.  

He said Mindanao has the lowest vaccination coverage. The fighting in Marawi, which displaced most of its residents, contributed to the decline in the vaccination rate.

“It is important that we rebuild trust and pass on the message very clearly that Dengvaxia is unrelated to a well-established vaccination program that has been running in the country for many years,” Weiler said.

The Philippines would have been declared measles-free in 2012, when it achieved zero case, if only the status had been sustained for three successive years.

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