Vaccine vs measles safe, up to 98 pct effective: expert


Posted at Feb 07 2019 10:32 AM

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Government-issued vaccine against measles is safe and 95 to 98 percent effective, a health expert said Thursday, after outbreaks of the disease were observed in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. 

Measles cases rose to 21,000 in 2018 from some 4,000 the previous year, the Department of Health earlier said. 

A possible factor in this spike may be low trust in the government's immunization drive following reports that anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia may trigger more severe symptoms in some cases, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

The vaccine for measles has been distributed for free by the government for decades, noted Dr. Susan Mercado, a former DOH undersecretary and official of the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific. 

"It's 95 to 98 percent effective... Napakaligtas po ng bakuna na iyan (that vaccine is very safe)," she told radio DZMM. 

"Wag na po nating hintayin na mahawa, lalo na kung naririnig n'yo po na may mga kapitbahay kayo, mayroon kayong mga kapamilyang nagkaroon ng tigdas," she added. 

(Let's not wait to be infected, especially if you hear that you have neighbors, relatives who have had measles.) 

Measles, caused by a virus that infects the respiratory tract, can be passed through direct contact and through the air. Its complications include severe diarrhea, pneumonia, blindness, and even death, according to the Department of Health. 

Unvaccinated children aged 5 and below are at highest risk of the disease, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo earlier said. 

An opinion poll by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last year showed just 32 percent of 1,500 Filipinos surveyed trusted vaccines, down from 93 percent in 2015. 

The DOH recorded 196 cases of measles in Metro Manila from January 1 to February 6 this year, higher than the 20 cases recorded in the same period last year.

Since January, at least 55 deaths from measles were recorded at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, most of them children aged 3 months to 4 years old. 

Some 267 children with measles were at San Lazaro as of Wednesday night, with 2 or 3 patients sharing a bed, said Mercado. 

The Philippine Red Cross is ready to lend tents with a 100-bed capacity to the hospital, she said. 

The DOH typically gives measles vaccine to infants aged 9 months up, but will start doing so for those aged 6 months up, due to the outbreak, added Mercado.