Measles outbreak may dwindle in April - health chief

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2019 03:57 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2019 04:18 PM

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MANILA - An outbreak of measles in 5 regions may wane in April, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Tuesday. 

"We cannot be premature in saying that this will wane in March. I would not bet on it," he told ANC. 

"We're looking at April because we still need to cover gradeschoolers, kindergarten up to Grade 6... and also some adult population," he added.

The Department of Health earlier this month declared a measles outbreak in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas. 

As of Feb. 16, the agency has recorded 8,443 measles cases nationwide, said Duque. 

A total of 136 patients succumbed to the highly contagious disease and majority of the fatalities had no immunization for measles, said the health department. 

The DOH aims to immunize 12 million people against the disease, said Duque. The agency currently has 6 million doses of the measles vaccine and has started the procurement process for additional doses, he added. 

The Philippine Red Cross has also set up air-conditioned tents to accommodate more patients at the San Lazaro and Amang Rodriguez hospitals in Marikina as well as the Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City and the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, said Duque. 

The measles outbreak followed concerns about the safety of dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which spawned a drop in immunization coverage in the country to 40 percent last year, from an average 70 percent in recent years.

Dengvaxia, which the previous Aquino administration distributed to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, could trigger worse symptoms among those who have not had dengue, French drug maker Sanofi disclosed in December 2017. 

This prompted government to stop the sale of the vaccine and its use in the state immunization drive. 

The vaccine's certificate of product registration was permanently revoked due to Sanofi's failure to submit post-approval commitment documents, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.