MANILA - The Department of Health has recorded more than 20,000 measles cases since January 2019.
In the report released by the DOH Epidemiology Bureau dated Mar. 20, the number of measles cases recorded from Jan. 1 to Mar. 19 has reached 22,967.
From March 13 to 14 alone, the DOH recorded and validated 1,088 measles cases.
A total of 333 patients have died of measles. Majority of the deaths were recorded in Region 4-A with 96, followed by the National Capital Region with 87 deaths.
Region 4-A also had the most number of measles cases with 4,740, followed by NCR with 4,512 cases.
During the same period in 2018, DOH has recorded 4,818 measles cases with 43 deaths.
The government declared a measles outbreak early February after hundreds of children contracted the airborne disease in Metro Manila and parts of Central Luzon and Central Visayas.
The measles outbreak may wane in April as the DOH moves to vaccinate some 12 million Filipinos against the disease, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said.
When a community has low immunization coverage, the likelihood of measles outbreak increases. An immunization coverage of 95% amongst all children is needed for a community to be fully protected against measles. This includes protection for the vulnerable members of the population such as infants that are too young to receive vaccination, people who have weakened immune systems, and older adults.
The Philippines has seen a decline in the first dose of measles vaccine in the past decade – from above 80% in 2008 to below 70% in 2017. Initial figures for 2018 indicate further decrease. As a result, many children have become susceptible to measles infection. WHO estimates that 2.6 million children under the age of 5 years in the Philippines are not protected from measles. As long as routine immunization remains low in the Philippines, the country will experience periodic measles outbreaks.
There are multiple factors that may contribute to the low immunization coverage in the Philippines. Inadequate service delivery continues to be a concern, including less than optimal number of immunization sessions at the primary care level and accessibility issues especially in hard-to-reach areas in the Philippines.
Vaccine confidence has also decreased in the Philippines following the dengue vaccine (Dengvaxia) issue.