By Francis Wakefield
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Response Cluster convened early this week where they discussed initiatives to address the measles outbreak in the country.
NDRRMC Executive Director and Office of Civil Defense Administrator Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, said the meeting was presided by Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III at the Department of Education office in Pasig City, to plan coordinated government response actions in light of the measles outbreak declaration in the National Capital Region (NCR), and Regions 3, 4-A, 6, and 7.
The meeting was attended by NDRRMC member agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Transportation (DoTr), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), PhilHealth, and Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
In a statement, Jalad said the meeting focused on how to address the current measles outbreak and prevent the disease from further spreading.
Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon as well as representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), also participated in the meeting.
According to the DoH, the vaccination and other preventive measures are being conducted to stop the outbreak. An estimated 2.6 million children below five-years-old is targeted to be vaccinated within 2019.
An additional 1 million doses of Measles Rubella Vaccine (MRV) will reportedly arrive on the 2nd week of March to augment existing supplies.
The DoH and its partners, including the PRC, highlighted the importance of vaccination in preventing the spread of the disease, with 709 Red Cross vaccinators on stand-by and ready to assist, along with plans to set up medical tents to decongest hospital wards.
Senator Gordon, on the other hand, offered the agency’s resources in addition to existing government initiatives.
Other NDRRMC member agencies have also pledged support, resources and manpower in responding and mitigating the disease outbreak, with their regional offices and personnel on standby and ready to assist in data gathering, transportation, distribution, and administration of vaccines to susceptible children.
Jalad said as agreed, DSWD and DepEd personnel such as day-care workers and teachers will help in identifying, screening and monitoring, unvaccinated students in their respective communities.
Local communities, schools, day-care and local health centers are also being tapped in identifying unvaccinated children below five-years-old. Public hospitals such as the San Lazaro Hospital and Philippine General Hospital are on high alert, opening their wards and designating fast lanes for measles patients.