DOH ramps up measles, polio immunization campaign ahead of possible outbreak

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2020 01:10 PM

The Department of Health declared an outbreak of measles in several districts of Metro Manila and said they expect more cases in the coming weeks. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA— The health department on Wednesday urged parents to vaccinate their children against measles, polio, and rubella in a bid to prevent an outbreak next year.

The agency is not yet seeing a rise in cases this year despite a decrease in vaccine coverage due to the practice of minimum health standards such as proper handwashing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Beverly Ho, director of the DOH health promotion bureau.

"We might not get cases this year but we might get them next year," she told ANC's Headstart.

"At the end of the day, for vaccine-preventable diseases we shouldn’t have deaths. We consider it one too many."

The DOH will launch an immunization drive from Oct. 26 to Nov. 25 in the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Cordilleras, Mimaropa, Bicol region, and Mindanao, Ho said.

It will also launch a campaign from February 1 to 28, 2021 in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Visayas, she added.

"We want to assure everyone that protocols are in place against COVID-19. Adequately protected 'yung health care workers natin, mayroon din mechanisms to ensure may physical distance and the entire encounter with the health care worker is less than 15 minutes," she said.

(Our health care workers are adequately protected and we have mechanism to ensure there's physical distancing.)

Ho urged parents to contact their local health authorities, centers, or DOH hotline 8651-7800 to schedule their children for immunization.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) earlier said childhood immunization coverage in the country has been "declining sharply in recent years from 87 percent in 2014 to 68 percent in 2019," exposing children to diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations, such as measles and polio.

It raised concerns that 2 million Filipino children may miss out on vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic as quarantine measures are implemented.

In 2018, health authorities noted a decline in the country's vaccination rate as parents hesitated to get their children inoculated for vaccine-preventable diseases following controversy over the safety of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. 

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