Duque stresses need for vaccine vs measles
MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines reels from a measles outbreak, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stressed the need for children to be fully vaccinated following a recent Harvard study which showed that contracting the respiratory disease made one susceptible to infections one was previously immune to.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) found that someone who fell ill from measles could suffer from immune amnesia as the virus “wipes out 11 percent to 73 percent of the different antibodies that protect against viral and bacterial strains a person was previously immune to.”
“So, if a person had 100 different antibodies against chickenpox before contracting measles, they might emerge from a case of measles with only 50, cutting their chickenpox protection in half. That protection could dip even lower if some of the antibodies lost are potent defenses known as neutralizing antibodies,” HMS said in a statement.
Duque said the HMS report gave a “very compelling” reason parents should not miss out on having their children vaccinated against measles, especially as this impaired one’s protection against vaccine-preventable diseases like pertussis, diphtheria and even polio to which there is also an ongoing outbreak.
“It makes more sense to really have your children vaccinated because we now have this kind of problem,” he said.
In the country, the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is given in two doses—first when a child turns 9 months old and when he reaches 1 year old. In February, the Department of Health (DOH) declared a measles outbreak as the immunization coverage rate dropped to a dismal 40 percent.
It attributed the decline to parents refusing to have their children vaccinated following the controversial implementation of the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, as well as their lack of time to bring them to health centers for free routine vaccination.
As a result, the number of measles cases this year soared by more than 157 percent. As of Oct. 26, there had been 42,757 measles cases nationwide, with 566 deaths, compared to only 16,628 cases with 147 deaths during the same period last year.
Most affected were children age 1 to 4 and those below 9 months. They comprised a combined 52 percent of all cases. The majority of those who fell ill (58 percent) were unvaccinated.
While HMS researchers said measles survivors “gradually regain their previous immunity to other viruses and bacteria,” this could take “months to years,” making them “vulnerable in the meantime to serious complications of those infections.”
This is why they suggested that booster shots for such cases as hepatitis and polio be given to strengthen the immunity of those who had measles.
“Revaccination following measles could help to mitigate long-term suffering that might stem from immune amnesia and the increased susceptibility to other infections,” the researchers said.
Duque said that because the HMS study is new information, they would have to first plan and look into how to go about with providing booster shots. But for now, he said the priority is ensuring that children are immunized against all vaccine-preventable diseases.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.