Because all vaccine matters
Amid the country’s easing restrictions and progress against COVID-19, a couple of model local government units (LGUs) have been silently championing the country’s flagship program on child immunization against other life-threatening diseases.
Spearheaded by the Department of Health (DOH), the National Immunization Program (NIP) also known as the Expanded Programme on Immunization is the Philippines’ premiere vaccination program that provides children, infants and their mothers, access to routine vaccines recommended for their age. Currently, the NIP provides protection against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) from only six when it first began in the ’70s.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, pediatric infectious disease expert and the executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), says that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a disruption in routine immunization especially in the Philippines.
“Regionally, nationally, globally, there has been a disruption in immunization services. At least 70 percent of the countries in the world have had disruption in immunization [of routine vaccines]. Some countries have rebounded, but unfortunately, for the Philippines, we have yet to go back to the original immunization coverage that we enjoyed in 2015 for example. [Back then,] we had a 93 percent vaccine confidence that translated to an 80 to 90 percent vaccination rate. Now, we only have around 30 to 40 percent vaccination rate.”
The 2020 Field Health Service Information System annual report states that only six out of every 10 Filipino children can be considered fully immunized children (FIC). This was 29.82 percent below the national program target of 95 percent. In the past five years, the proportion of FIC has not achieved the desired immunization program coverage and has seen a decline since 2016’s coverage of 80.20 percent.
In April 2021, the DOH remarked that many health workers who were supposed to be vaccinators for routine immunization were unavailable after being tapped to help in the country’s pandemic response.
To strengthen efforts on routine immunization amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline Philippines, Inc. to launch “Vax My Baby”—a year-long, multisectoral vaccine mobilization campaign that aims to mobilize target LGUs in revamping routine immunization services in the community as well as educate parents about the importance of routine vaccines and how to safely access them in the community.