Spike in measles cases due to low vax rate — DOH

A child gets inoculated during the Measles-Rubella Oral Pollo Vaccine Supplemental Immunization Activity at Brgy. Mostro, Anilao, Iloilo last May 8, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Anilao Rural Health Unit/file)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The uptick in measles cases in the country is due to the low vaccination rate, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa said on Wednesday.

“Hindi kasi nagpabakuna. The same way why our children are having pertussis. Ganun ang problema,” Herbosa told Daily Guardian in an ambush interview in Manila.

The DOH reported Tuesday that the country has logged 1,817 cases of measles from January 1 to April 13.

The figure shows a five percent increase in reported measles cases compared to the same period last year. Data from the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH showed that 374 cases of measles-rubella were logged in the same period in 2023.

In Iloilo, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) reported that from January 1 to April 20 this year, the province recorded 23 cases of measles, which is a 64.3 percent increase from the 14 cases reported in the same morbidity week last year.

Herbosa noted that only 71 percent of Filipino children have been fully immunized with the routinely recommended infant or childhood vaccines under the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).

“We need to reach 95 percent. In fact, to prevent all of this resurgence, we need to maintain three years of 95 percent coverage of all children to achieve herd immunity,” the DOH secretary added.

Vaccines under the EPI include the BCG birth dose, Hepatitis B birth dose, Oral Poliovirus Vaccine, Pentavalent Vaccine (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae b), Measles Containing Vaccines (Antimeasles Vaccine, Measles, Mumps, Rubella), and Tetanus Toxoid.

A fully immunized child should receive one dose of BCG at birth or any time before reaching 12 months, three doses each of OPV, three doses each of Pentavalent vaccines, and one dose of Anti-measles Vaccine before reaching 12 months.

Herbosa stressed the importance of raising awareness among the public regarding the significance of regular immunization for infants, children, and mothers in preventing common vaccine-preventable diseases.

“We should educate people why the government is providing vaccines, because this is good for you.  Without vaccines, there is a risk of mortality […] We don’t want them to die before 6 years old,” he said.

Herbosa lauded the strategy of the Iloilo PHO to incentivize barangay health workers and volunteers to boost the province’s vaccination efforts in its oral poliovirus vaccine supplemental immunization activity and coverage against measles.

“Okay sa akin yun. They are working, they are going house-to-house, let us incentivize the workers, especially the volunteers,” he said.

The Iloilo provincial government is offering barangay volunteers a reward of P50 for each child they encourage to receive vaccination.


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