MEASLES KILLS SIX: More than 300K kids in WV still unvaccinated

MEASLES UPDATE (From left) Vincent Sumergido, senior health program officer of Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD)-6, and Dr. Mary Jane Roches Juanico, DOH-6 Medical Officer III, give updates on measles cases in Western Visayas on March 29, 2019. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

The highly-contagious measles has claimed six lives in the region as of March 28, 2019.

The recent casualty is a two-month-old male infant from Sagay, Negros Occidental, according to Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe of Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD)-6.

DOH-6 also recorded 1,621 suspected measles cases in the region, 54 of which were laboratory confirmed.

Since the start of the outbreak, the health department has intensified its vaccination efforts through the Outbreak Response Immunization (ORI) activities across the region.

Dr. Mary Jane Roches Juanico, DOH-6 Medical Officer III, reported that 55 percent, or 328,056 of the 595,023 target children aged 6-59 months old were vaccinated through the Supplemental Immunization Activity (Phase 1 & 2) in the region.

Moreover, Juanico said 68,871, or 69 percent of the overall target for Grade 1; and 36,610, or 49 percent of the Grade 7 targets in region underwent School-Based Catch Up Immunization.

Despite this, the DOH-6 still fell short of its target and is still trying to reach 336,467 children (6-59 months old) and Grade 1 and 7 learners for vaccination, according to Juanico.

“For 6-59 months old children, 134,823 remain unvaccinated. We are also targeting the remaining unvaccinated 30,763 Grade 1 and 38,737 Grade 7 pupils,” she said.

Juanico said they are positive that they can reach the unvaccinated kids even if classes wind up in the first week of April.

“We are positive malab-ot ang remaining nga kabataan just in time for the closing,” she said.

Juanico also appealed to local government units (LGUs) to help them reach the remaining unvaccinated children who need to undergo Supplemental Immunization Activity.

Meanwhile, DOH-6 said all measles ORI activities will end by April 12, 2019 while the mop-up vaccination for the 101 LGUs in the region will be from April 13 to April 30, 2019.

After this, the health department will conduct rapid coverage assessment in the priority areas.

Schoolchildren who will not be covered until the last days of classes will be immunized in their respective communities, Juanico said.

“We have given directives sa aton mga Provincial Health Units (PHUs) and LGU nga i-active ila masterlist because ang mga children na indi madala sa school-based immunization will be vaccinated in their community,” she added.

While measles cases have been declining in the past 13 weeks and there is a possibility that the outbreak declaration in the region will be lifted, Juanico encouraged the public to remain vigilant.

“If ever ma-lift, we encourage the public to be vigilant. Our measles vaccination is a free program by the government. We encourage mothers to vaccinate their children at least two doses during their 9th and 12th months. We don’t want children dying nga ma-prevent gali sang immunization,” she noted.