MANILA – There will possibly be a measles outbreak in the Philippines next year due to low routine immunization rates among children, the Department of Health said Tuesday, citing assessments by two United Nations agencies.
DOH Officer-In-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the current rate of fully immunized children is only 62.9 percent, far from their target of 95 percent.
"In our latest meeting with international partners such as WHO (World Health Organization) and Unicef, they were able to analyze ang ating pool of [susceptibility], na [ang bilang ng] wala pang kahit isang bakuna or zero dose sa bansa for the past two years of the pandemic is almost one million," she said.
(In our latest meeting with international partners such as WHO and Unicef, they were able to analyze our pool of susceptibility. And it was revealed that the number of children without a dose of routine shots for the past two years is almost one million.)
"Kaya po nagfla-flag at nagwa-warn po ang WHO at Unicef sa atin na kailangan nating paigtingin ang routine immunization because there might be an impending outbreak of measles in the country by next year if we are not going to do anything," she added.
To be considered fully immunized, a child must have received completed doses of BCG, OPV, DPT, Hepatitis B vaccines, and one dose of measles vaccines before reaching the age of one.
The health official also that the number of children who have yet to receive any dose of a measles vaccine has grown to almost three million.
The measles virus attacks mainly children with the most serious complications including blindness, brain swelling, diarrhea and severe respiratory infections.
Its symptoms include a red rash that appears first on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Once very common, it can now be prevented with a vaccine.
Aside from vaccine hesitancy, the pandemic has played a major part in low vaccination rates, said Vergeire.
"Alam natin lahat nagka-restrictions tayo. Because of these restrictions, the lockdowns, hindi po masyado nakakalabas ang ating mga nanay para pabakunahan ang kanilang mga anak."
(We know that we've had restrictions. Because of these restrictions, and the lockdowns, many mothers were not able to bring their children to clinics to have them vaccinated.)
The DOH continues to call on local governments and agencies like the Department of Education to do their part in bumping up the vaccination rate.
"Kailangan ang whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach dito para mapigilan ang mga ganitong klaseng pagkalat ng sakit, lalong lalo na sa ating mga kabataan," Vergeire said.
(We need a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach to prevent the spread of these diseases, especially among children.)
- with Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News, and Agence France-Presse