By Mario Casayuran
Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara has called for a more aggressive immunization campaign to ensure that life-saving vaccines reach as many Filipino children as possible.
Angara, who is seeking a second six-year term through the May 13 elections, issued the statement after the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) reported that an estimated 2.9 million children in the Philippines remained unvaccinated, making them vulnerable to potentially deadly infections like measles, rubella, and polio.
“We need to be more aggressive in ensuring that every Filipino child receives vaccines to protect them against preventable illnesses. We have to make sure that our immunization program reaches even the hardest to reach child,” he said.
UNICEF data showed that measles immunization coverage in the country has declined to 73 percent in 2017 from 88 percent in 2013.
Last year, the immunization coverage further went down to less than 70 percent, or way below the 95 percent required for population immunity.
The UN agency cited public hesitancy, vaccine stock-outs, lack of properly trained health workers and accessibility of hard-to-reach areas as the main reasons why many Filipino children have failed to get immunization.
Angara emphasized that the government needs to step up its information campaign on the benefits of vaccination program, which should include the use of door-to-door approach in far-flung areas to provide parents with personalized immunization information.
“It is vital to identify those who are missing vaccination and reach them with life-saving vaccines,” said the lawmaker from Aurora, who is running under the platform “Alagang Angara.”
“Improving vaccination coverage is the key to reducing diseases and deaths among children,” he added.
Close to 30,000 measles cases, including 389 deaths, were recorded nationwide since January this year.
Angara stressed that he has been pushing parents to have their children vaccinated, saying that immunization is the best protection against measles—a highly contagious disease that can cause life-threatening pneumonia and brain inflammation, middle-ear infection, severe diarrhea, and sometimes death.
“Measles can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine,” said Angara, a health advocate in the Senate who aggressively pushed for the passage of the Cancer Control Act, Mental Health Act, and the Universal Health Care Act in which he pushed for the inclusion of free checkup, laboratory test and medicine.
The vaccine is given as part of a combination vaccine called the MMR, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
Doctors advise parents to have their babies aged six to 11 vaccinated for the first shot and a follow-up vaccine shot when they reach 12 to 18 months.
Aside from measles, the country’s mandatory basic immunization covers tuberculosis, polio, hepatitis B, type B influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.