Measles, polio vaccination drive affected by COVID-19 lockdown, fears of infection - DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2021 08:52 PM

MANILA — The Philippines is still having difficulty reaching its target number of children for measles and polio vaccinations as some areas have been locked down due to the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Health said on Tuesday. 

Adding to the problem is the fear of some parents, said Dr. Beverly Ho, director of the DOH’s Health Promotion Bureau.

“What we're still getting from the ground is that a lot of them are afraid to go to the health centers because they're afraid for the safety of them and their kids. Baka makakuha sila ng (They might get infected with) COVID, so they're not going to the centers,” Ho said during a media briefing.

“We want to reassure everyone that as long as we're able to practice our minimum public health standards - there are protocols in place in health center, so that the mother and the baby are protected,” she added, explaining that they would only need to stay in the health center for 15 minutes during the vaccination.

The DOH and participating local government units are holding a mass immunization campaign for the whole month of February to prevent another measles outbreak from happening, and to further stop the spread of polio.

For the measles-rubella vaccine, the DOH targeted 5.1 million children to be vaccinated, of whom, almost 1.4 million have yet to be reached.

For the oral polio vaccine, almost 4.7 million children are targeted, but around 1.3 million children that have yet to receive it.

“Unfortunately, for some of the barangays in these areas, there has been increasing COVID-19 cases, and this puts some of the areas in lockdown. And that compromises the ability of our vaccination team to go into those areas,” Ho said as she enumerated the participating regions — National Capital Region, Region 3, 4A, 6, 7, and 8.

The health official said the vaccinators will push through with the campaign as soon as the lockdowns are lifted. 

Among the regions with the highest number of vaccination coverage is Region 3, with 85% of its target reached for oral polio vaccine and measles vaccine.

In case the lockdowns continue until after February, Ho said parents can still bring their children to health centers to be vaccinated.

After this mass immunization campaign, the agency will push for a higher rate of routine immunization since it is very “taxing” on health workers and local government units to do house-to-house vaccinations, she said.

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