Measles outbreak could happen next year in the country if immunization coverage remains low, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned the DOH on such a scenario in 2023, said DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.
“Nagwa-warn po ang WHO at UNICEF sa atin na kailangan natin paigtingin ang (The WHO and UNICEF have warned us that we need to intensify our) routine immunization because there might be an impending outbreak of measles in the country by next year if we are not going to do anything,” said Vergeire in a press briefing on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Vergeire said about three million children in the Philippines are susceptible to measles.
Based on the DOH data released on Wednesday, Oct. 5, there were 450 measles and rubella cases recorded nationwide from Jan. 1 to Sept. 17, 2022.
“Cumulatively, cases this year is 153 percent higher compared to 178 cases reported during the same period in 2021,” the DOH said in a statement.
Most of the measles and rubella cases were recorded in Calabarzon, Central Visayas, and Metro Manila, the DOH said.
To prevent an outbreak from happening, Vergeire said that they already coordinated with their implementing units such as the local government units (LGUs) to strengthen the conduct of routine immunization for children.
Vergeire also reminded parents to get their children vaccinated against measles.
“Kapag ang isang bata ay mahina ang kanyang resistensya, mahina ang immune system, maari pong magkaroon ng komplikasyon and most common complication is pulmonya at pagtatae (When a child's immune system is weak, complications can occur and the most common complications are pneumonia and diarrhea),” she said.
“These are the two most common and which are the causes of children being admitted in hospitals; and the cause also kung bakit sa madalas na may mga ganitong pangyayari, namamatay po ang bata (and these may also lead to deaths among children),” she added.
The Philippines’ low routine immunization coverage can be attributed to lockdowns imposed due to Covid-19 which restricted parents from having their children vaccinated. Another factor was vaccine hesitancy among parents, said Vergeire.
“Hinihikayat natin ang ating mga magulang, libre ang bakuna, Nandyan lang po sa ating mga health centers (We encourage our parents, the vaccine is free and available in our health centers),” she said.
“Subok na ang mga bakunang ito, dekada na po ang paggamit ng bakunang ito sa ating mga kabataan. Ito ay ligtas, epektibo, at libre na ibinibigay ng gobyerno (These vaccines have been tested and being used for decades already. It is safe, effective, and provided for free by the government),” she added.