DOH: 55 children dead in Metro Manila measles outbreak
The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday that 55 children have died of measles in an outbreak of the disease in the National Capital Region (NCR) which it attributed to “low vaccine coverage because of the Dengvaxia scare.”
As of Tuesday, San Lazaro Hospital in Manila has admitted 1,504 patients for measles, 1,355 of whom were children and teenagers.
The hospital has also recorded since the start of the year a total of 55 deaths, all of them children between 3 months and 4 years old.
The data from the DOH Epidemiology Bureau showed that in the first 19 days of January, Metro Manila recorded 169 cases of measles or “tigdas.”
550 percent hike
The figure was 550 percent higher compared to the same period last year when there were only 20 cases.
From just 351 cases in 2017, the DOH said the NCR reported 3,646 measles cases in 2018.
“We are declaring an outbreak as cases have increased in the past weeks and to strengthen surveillance of new cases and alert mothers and caregivers to be more vigilant,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Earlier, the DOH said that the country’s vaccination coverage rate had dropped to 60 percent following the controversy surrounding Dengvaxia. As a result, some parents refused to have their children vaccinated for fear that they would suffer adverse side effects.
Duque earlier criticized the Public Attorney’s Office headed by Persida Acosta for linking the dengue vaccine to the death of several children who were inoculated against the mosquito-borne disease.
He accused Acosta of making claims “without basis” as he pointed out that the children who died after receiving Dengvaxia had “the same causes of death in populations that were not given [the dengue vaccine].”
The World Health Organization (WHO) also warned that if the low immunization rate was not addressed, the Philippines was in danger of seeing a reemergence of such diseases as polio, pertussis and diphtheria, among others.
WHO expresses concern
“We are very concerned [about] the situation because there are many cases of measles that … could have been avoided if we had achieved higher vaccination coverage. The trust in vaccination has been challenged. I think it is important that we rebuild trust and pass on the message very clearly that Dengvaxia is unrelated to the very well-established vaccination programs that have been running in the country for many years and without any doubt has generated huge benefits for those who received vaccination,” WHO country representative Gundo Weiler said in an earlier interview.
Other regions under watch
Apart from declaring a measles outbreak in Metro Manila, Duque also placed under “tight watch” the following regions: Ilocos, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Caraga.
“These regions need to scale up their response against measles and have all unvaccinated children vaccinated against measles, a proven effective and safe measure to further stop its spread…,” Duque said.
Calabarzon had the highest number of measles cases in January at 330, an increase of 965 percent.
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