MANILA - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has raised concerns over the Philippines' declining immunization coverage, saying some 2.9 million Filipino children are at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases.
“Every child has the right to the best possible health care and access to disease protection through timely vaccination. Vaccines are the safest and most effective way of saving lives,” UNICEF Representative Julia Rees said in a statement released Tuesday.
The measles immunization coverage in the Philippines, the agency said, has dropped at an "alarming rate."
From 88 percent in 2013, coverage declined to 73 percent in 2017. It moved further down to less than 70 percent in 2018, which is far below the required 95 percent.
Public health scare, vaccine shortage, and difficulty in accessing hard-to-reach areas, UNICEF said, are to blame for the low immunization turnout.
The country's laws support immunization through Republic Act 10152 or the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act, which makes basic immunization mandatory and free at any government hospitals or health centers for infants and children up to 5 years of age.
UNICEF urged health providers and community stakeholders to have children vaccinated.
"Everyone in the community has a role in ensuring that all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, are immunized according to schedule," the agency said.