City gov’t allays fears amid pertussis vaccine shortage

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By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Amid a declared outbreak of pertussis among young children, the Iloilo City Health Office (ICHO) is facing a vaccine shortage but assures the public there is no cause for alarm.

In a press briefing on Thursday, ICHO’s National Immunization Program coordinator, Dr. Jennifer Anceno, reported that the city currently has only 3,700 vials, against a targeted 30,836 vials meant to immunize children aged 0 to 59 months under the office’s outbreak response immunization (ORI).

Anceno said that there is a high demand for the vaccines due to fears of possible outbreaks in other areas of the country.

From March 25 to April 2, the city government has vaccinated up to 1,204 children under the ORI, consisting of 634 aged 24 to 59 months, 418 aged 0 to 12 months, and 152 aged 13 to 23 months.

This data is still incomplete, as it only includes those under the supervision of the CHO and the district health centers. Anceno said that other children may have been vaccinated at private health facilities.

She likewise explained that the scarcity of the vaccine stock has pushed them to focus only on areas where there are confirmed or suspected pertussis cases.

Their data indicated 9 barangays where there are 9 confirmed cases (San Jose in Arevalo district; Benedicto, M.V. Hechanova, and Taytay Zone II in Jaro district; Oñate de Leon in Mandurriao district; and Boulevard, Calumpang, North Baluarte, and San Juan in Molo district).

“We prioritize areas [for ORI] where there are positive [pertussis] cases. Right now, we are doing selective immunization because of the scarcity of vaccines. Where there are positive cases, we saturate the immunization of children there,” she said.

But she assured that additional stock may be arriving soon, saying that they still have enough to inoculate based on their current data.

The CHO is currently implementing the ORI as part of its strategy under a state of calamity recommended by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council last March 25, and approved by the city council in a special session the next day, March 26.

The vaccination program is part of a state of calamity strategy, with the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recommending a significant portion of the response fund for vaccine procurement.

The CDRRMC’s resolution indicating their recommendation for a state of calamity provided that ₱14 million out of the total ₱16 million response fund would be allocated for medicines, which also includes the allocation for the vaccines.

As part of the ORI, children aged between 24 to 59 months (4 years and 11 months) are being provided with at least 1 dose of the pentavalent vaccine regardless of their immunization status.

The pentavalent vaccine, according to the World Health Organization, includes inoculations against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B, and hib.

The TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) booster vaccine is also administered to children aged 29 months (2 years and 5 months) old and above under the ORI, including adults, with priority being given to pregnant women in their 3rd trimester (28 to 40 weeks).

The ORI has no set timeline and will continue “as long as there would be vaccines to immunize the children, and there would no longer be additional cases of pertussis,” Anceno said.

Under the regular routine vaccination, children aged 6 weeks to 12 months (1 year) old must be given at least 1 dose of their appropriate TDAP vaccine, but children up to 2 years old who have not yet been fully immunized must have a catch-up vaccination at least 1 dose, regardless of their immunization status.


The city leads the rate of fully immunized children (FIC) in Western Visayas in 2023 (70.61 percent), higher than the regional average (61.23 percent), but below the Department of Health’s (DOH) 95 percent benchmark.

It is followed only by Iloilo province (68.46 percent), Guimaras (64.62 percent), Negros Occidental (61.41 percent), Capiz (60.70 percent), Antique (59.22 percent), Aklan (51.04 percent), and Bacolod City (40.24 percent).

Within the city alone, their 10-year data set of FIC administration has consistently declined from 2012 (74.9 percent) to 2022 (59.9 percent).

Anceno said that some factors that contribute to this decline include a conflict between the data of the city and the DOH, as well as the mobility of families.

She reconciled that the city had reached its actual target population between 0 to 59 months (36,926) in 2023 against the DOH’s estimated target of 45,124.

“The DOH’s benchmark is at 95 percent. We work with the actual while they have a projected population. Our actual population is a bit far compared to their projected, so it would seem we can’t catch up,” Anceno explained.

“Another thing is that people are in and out of Iloilo City. People can move to [Iloilo] province or transfer residences [elsewhere], so those residents whom we can catch are the ones we focus on,” she added.

She also agreed that vaccine disinformation in the past years may have also contributed to the FIC decline.

“There are some mothers who have beliefs not to receive vaccines. Religious beliefs [is] one of the factors. Some of the mothers may also have delays because of their [personal] schedule. It really is a multifactoral [issue],” she said.

An FIC means that the child has received the following vaccines:

–       1 dose of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), a common vaccine against tuberculosis;

–       3 doses of pentavalent vaccine;

–       3 doses of polio vaccine; and

2 doses of measles-containing vaccine in the first year of life.