MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) is considering the possibility of making immunization mandatory for all children following the declaration of a measles outbreak in several areas in the Philippines.
"Pinag-aaralan na natin ang ibang mga bansa na kung saan mayroong mandatory immunization na ang mga magulang dapat dalhin talaga nila ang mga anak nila sa mga health centers," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told "Bandila sa DZMM."
He said there is an existing executive order signed in 2007 by former President and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which requires complete vaccination of children before entering preschool and primary school.
"Ang problema walang sanction. Sinabi lang na it will ensure, pero wala namang nakalagay na kapag ka hindi dinala ng magulang ay may karampatang penalties o kaparusahan," Duque said.
The health chief made the rounds Friday in some hospitals in Metro Manila to check on the patients.
Asked why some parents refused their children to be vaccinated, Duque said parents cited the scrapped anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia as the major reason.
Last year, the government recalled the anti-dengue vaccine after its manufacturer, France's Sanofi-Pasteur, said it could cause severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease.
"Ang madalas sabihin nila ay 'yun na nga natakot sila dahil nga doon sa nangyari sa Dengvaxia. Nalito sila na ang Dengvaxia ay ibang klaseng bakuna 'yan," he said.
He added, "Hindi nila naintindihan na ang Dengvaxia, ibang isyu 'yan. Hindi 'yan dapat nakaapekto, madungisan ating immunization program dahil lang sa isang kontrobersiya dulot ng Dengvaxia."
After immunization coverage fell, some 90 percent of those infected with measles nationwide are unvaccinated, DOH had said.
Measles outbreak have been declared in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas.
Measles, locally known as "tigdas," can be passed through direct contact and through the air. Its symptoms include fever, dry cough, and runny nose.
During the interview, Duque said he will coordinate with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) over a report that an Australian got infected by measles after visiting the Philippines.
"Para mas malinaw kung paano nangyari ang hawaan at kung saan sa Pilipinas nanggaling," he said.
The incident prompted the health department in Western Australia to issue a measles warning.
"Subject to validation and verification itong mga findings na ito," Duque said.