MANILA - Measles deaths in the Philippines have hit a new high, with 286 fatalities recorded from January 1 to March 2 of this year, the Department of Health said Tuesday. This is seven times higher than the 39 measles deaths recorded from January 1 to March 2 of 2018.
The health department said out of the 286 deaths caused by measles, 131 are aged 1 to 4 yrs old and 110 are less than 9 months of age. A total of 228 of the 286 cases did not have any history of vaccination, 28 have unknown vaccination status, and 30 have had 1 or more doses of vaccine.
Metro Manila had the highest number of measles deaths at 82, followed by Region 4A with 80 deaths, Region 3 with 43 deaths, Region 8 with 23 deaths and Region 1 with 10 deaths, according to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau.
In an interview, DOH spokesman Undersecretary Eric Domingo said high incidence areas are identified to have had high vaccine hesitancy last year.
“Ito rin kasi 'yung pinaka mababa 'yung coverage from 2018. Medyo mataas 'yung vaccine hesitancy last year pagkatapos these are also the areas na pinakamaraming bata, pinaka congested 'yung living conditions and you know measles kasi is easily transmissible lalo na kung dikit-dikit 'yung mga bahay. Very conducive kasi itong regions na ito to transmission of measles," he said.
The health department has recorded 2,000 more measles cases from March 3 to 7.
A National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council report showed a total of 18,553 measles cases has been reported all over the Philippines as of March 7 this year. Of this number, 11,182 patients have no history of vaccination.
In the interview, Domingo said herd immunity is important during seasons of outbreak as this behavior protects more children from being infected by disease.
"For example in one community with 100 kids, with 95% immunized kids, only 5% are vulnerable. The chance to spread the virus given that one of the 5 kids gets infected by measles becomes very small," he said.
“Pag immune 'yung herd mo, malaki ang coverage mo sa herd mo, kahit may mga pumasok diyan na sakit, 'yung chance na kumalat 'yan sa community ay napakababa. But once you have low coverage and then you have a lot of children who are not protected or vulnerable, nawawala ang herd immunit. Napakabilis kumalat ng sakit."
He said in instances where kids are resistant to the vaccinations due to medical conditions such as leukemia, a community gets to help the child by ensuring the community’s protection from the outbreak.