MANILA - The United Nations children's agency UNICEF on Friday urged Filipino parents to have their children vaccinated amid the measles outbreak in several regions in the country.
An outbreak of measles has been declared in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas, which came following a dip in immunization coverage last year following the controversy on anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
The Department of Health has recorded at least 14 deaths due to measles in different regions, while the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila has reported 55 since January.
In a statement, UNICEF said the reported deaths of children from the vaccine-preventable disease are "unacceptable."
"Vaccinations to prevent measles is available free of cost in government health centers. The measles vaccine is safe and effective and had been successfully used in the Philippines for more than 40 years now," UNICEF Philippines Deputy Representative Julia Rees said.
"Measles in children is deadly and can cause long-term complications and disabilities which can seriously impede development and potential in our children. I urge parents and communities to take their children to the health center to be immunized."
The UNICEF lamented that the coverage for routine immunizations in the country is only 55 percent, when measles outbreak and population immunity could be achieved by 95 percent.
It noted that the Philippines, which signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is "mandated to give children the best health care possible, including vaccination against childhood diseases."
The UNICEF also vowed to support the Philippines in fighting measles by ensuring that vaccines are available.
"We also provide technical assistance to improve coverage of routine immunization and supplemental immunization activities and improve public awareness on measles vaccination," it said.
Aside from parents, the UNICEF also urged the government to "support the mobilization of health workers, to disseminate the right information and address any fear and mistrust of vaccines."
It encouraged local leaders to intensify immunization activities and health workers to ensure that vaccines are available to children in every community.
"We all have a shared responsibility to ensure all children are immunized and protected from preventable diseases. We all have a role to play to ensure that families are supported in overcoming barriers, and that children complete their vaccines," it said.