By Ben Rosario
With the measles outbreak death toll now reaching 136, the Department of Health (DOH) was asked on Thursday to fully account for every centavo of the P7.43 billion budget it spent last year for the national immunization program.
The Anakalusugan Partylist made the call as it noted that the DOH spent all the budget for the immunization program’s implementation last year.
“The DOH spent all of its budget last year for immunization. But by its own admission, its immunization rate in 2018 was only at 39 percent. This means more than 2 million children did not get measles vaccination,” Anakalusugan Party-list nominee and former Quezon City Rep. Mike Defensor stated.
Defensor noted that the DOH spent a total P634 million for advertising alone.
“They cannot keep on invoking the vaccination scare brought about by the Dengvaxia mess. They should have used the budget to mount a massive information campaign to encourage parents to have their kids vaccinated,” said Defensor.
According to Defensor, there was clear failure of DOH to do its job in keeping children safe from the measles threat.
Anakalusugan nominee Darlo Ginete said it was impossible for the health department to have missed the trend of the increasing number of measles cases.
“In 2018, DOH reported a total number of 18,407 measles cases. Compared to only 2,428 cases in 2017, last year’s figure represents a nearly 800 percent increase in measles cases,” he said.
“How could they have not seen that trend? Why are they scrambling only now to raise awareness on the importance of the vaccination program when the numbers were glaringly clear as early as 2018? Nagkukumahog kung kailan ang dami nang namatay,” Ginete added.
The government has already declared a measles outbreak in the National Capital Region and in several regions around the country, with over 8,000 cases recorded since January 1.
Of the total number of deaths recorded this year, 40 percent or about 54 deaths were children aged four years old and below.
Measles, which is a vaccine-preventable disease, may cause complications such as pneumonia and diarrhea and can lead to death if left untreated.
Immunization and Vitamin A supplementation for 9-month old children remain the best defenses against measles.