All regions in PH at ‘high risk’ for possible measles outbreak—DOH exec


All regions in the country are at high risk for a possible measles outbreak due to low vaccine coverage, an official of the Department of Health (DOH) warned.

Measles and rubella cases in the Philippines are on an “upward trend,” said DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Alethea De Guzman during a media forum on Friday, Oct. 14.

A total of 489 cases of measles-rubella have been recorded nationwide from Jan. 1 to Oct. 1. The figure was 167 percent higher compared to the 306 cases logged during the same period in 2021.

She noted that children less than five years of age comprise 62 percent of the measles cases this year, said De Guzman.

“Nakikita na lahat ng rehiyon sa Pilipinas ay at high risk (We’ve seen that all regions in the Philippines are at high risk) for a measles outbreak dahil sa mababang coverage ng measles vaccination (due to the low measles vaccination coverage),” said De Guzman.

Last Oct. 5, the DOH also reported that a measles outbreak may occur in the Philippines by next year, citing the warnings from the World Health Organization and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. The DOH said that three million children in the country are susceptible to measles.

De Guzman noted that the last “wide scale” outbreak of measles in the country was in 2019. In the said year, the DOH declared an outbreak in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Western Visayas, and Central Visayas.

“Tayo ngayon ay nasa ikatlong taon mula nung huli nating outbreak nung 2019 at makikita niyo na may cycle siya ng every four to five years, tayo ay nagkakaroon ng ganitong outbreak (We are now in the third year since our last outbreak in 2019 and you can see that has a cycle of having an outbreak every four to five years),” said De Guzman.

“Kaya tayo ay nagsasabi na (This is why we are saying that) there is an impending outbreak possibly in the next year or two kung hindi natin maipapataas ang ating vaccination coverage (if we will not increase our vaccination coverage),” she added.

Aside from vaccination, De Guzman also emphasized the importance of improving measles surveillance.

“Tayo din ay may mababang detection ng measles. So kailangan i-improve hindi lang ang vaccination, but the surveillance on measles (We also have a low detection of measles. So it is necessary to improve not only the vaccination, but the surveillance on measles as well),” she said.

In a recent press briefing, DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said they will intensify efforts to increase the coverage in routine childhood immunization, especially for children less than five years old. Also, supplemental immunization activities will be conducted in schools to cover children who have not completed their routine vaccination yet, especially for measles.