Citing that the country could not afford an outbreak within a pandemic, the Department of Health (DOH) and medical experts reinforced that immunization from vaccine-preventable diseases should continue amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
This position is strongly aligned with the statements released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF which also highlighted the importance of continuing vaccination at this challenging time.said that the benefits of immunization clearly outweigh the risks at this time.
“Don’t be afraid because children must get immunized. They are at higher risk of getting measles, polio, pneumonia and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” Bravo said.
“Let us all be reminded that first, if children and other vulnerable sectors are not vaccinated, they can get sick and can die from these vaccine-preventable diseases,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wilda Silva, National Immunization Program Director of the DOH said that the government recognizes immunization as a core health service that should be prioritized even at this time of COVID pandemic.
“But we also accept the fact that we need to protect our healthcare workers and our community as well. We must strike that balance between giving that life-saving vaccine, protecting children against vaccine-preventable diseases, and protecting our health workers against COVID. The position of the DOH when the COVID crisis was at its height, was to offer immunization services when feasible,” Silva said.
One of the vaccine-preventable diseases, pneumonia, remains the number one killer disease among children 5 years old and below. The tender for the child pneumococcal vaccine—between PCV 10 and PCV 13– is currently being reviewed by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) for comparability and cost effectiveness.
Asked on the new evidence presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) saying that the two PCVs in the market are equally effective in protecting the children from pneumonia, Silva said: “When we did the cost effectiveness analysis, they are both cost effective. The price of PCV10 and PCV13, they fall on that range na cost effective sila pareho. But, of course, there is another benefit when we chose the PCV13 because it contains te three serotypes that are not found in PCV10 before. But now with the new evidence, this was now presented to National Immunization Committee and then it was brought up to the HTAC for further review and we are waiting for the review.”
The PCV tender is massive, which is even bigger than that of the controversial Dengvaxia procurement.
“Currently, there is only one available pneumococcal conjugate vaccine available in the market (PCV 13). It is a very expensive vaccine and its eating up more than 60% of the budget of the national immunization program. Mahal talaga pag isang produkto lang ang nasa merkado, ” Silva said.
The HTAC Review of the PCV vaccines is expected to be completed this June.
For her part, Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), said that like COVID-19, “each opponent virus has its own effective weapon of infecting vulnerable individuals, especially children which is why, vaccination is critical even during a pandemic.
“Sa ngayon, meron na tayong mabisang bala para sa tigdas, polio, tusperina, flu, pulmonya, pagtatae at iba pang mga sakit. So, labanan natin at sugpuin natin ito upang mapanatili nating malusog ang ating mga bata. Sama-sama, tulong-tulong tayong ihayag sa mga magulang kung gaano kahalaga ang magpabakuna.” (For now, we already have an effective defense weapon against measles, polio, pertussis, flu, pneumonia, diarrhea, and many other illnesses. We need to fight and beat these to ensure the health of our kids. We should all together make parents aware how important it is to get vaccinated.) (Edgard Hilario)