DOH to ramp up vaccination drive vs measles
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is planning to intensify the government’s immunization program in the coming months and reach as many children as possible amid the threat of a measles outbreak.
Health Undersecretary and officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said this means enhancing the government’s school-based immunization drive for elementary students.
“We will continue to hold school-based immunization that are being done regularly… for those in Grades 1 to 7,” Vergeire said in a press briefing recently, adding that the DOH met with its implementing units to strengthen routine immunization.
Since classes opened in August, the department has been holding COVID-19 vaccination activities in both public and private schools and has included parents of schoolchildren who have not been inoculated or have not had their booster shots.
Vergeire said the department is also looking to hold community-based vaccination come March 2023.
“We will go to the communities come March so we can reach more children less than 5 years old needing the vaccines,” said Vergeire.
Earlier, the DOH reported that all 17 regions in the country are considered to be at high risk for the measles outbreak by 2023 if the vaccination coverage of children does not improve.
The Philippines was flagged by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) since three million children nationwide remained unvaccinated against measles, said Vergeire.
Dr. Alethea de Guzman, DOH Epidemiology Bureau director, said a measles outbreak in the country usually occurs every four to five years, with the last two measles outbreaks in 2014 and in 2018-2019.
An outbreak was declared in Metro Manila and other regions at that time.
“This is why we are projecting an impending outbreak possibly in the next year or two if we fail to increase our vaccination coverage,” De Guzman said in a separate press briefing recently.
The DOH official encouraged parents to have their kids vaccinated against measles.
“We remind everybody that getting vaccinated is a way to prevent and avoid the spread of non-COVID diseases like measles,” she said, noting the low immunization rate seen among children over the recent years.
As of the latest DOH data, there had been 489 measles cases reported from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1.
This is 167 percent higher than the 306 cases recorded during the same period last year.