Philippine department of health pushes vaccines as measles, pertussis cases go up

Disruptions in routine immunization at primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic were the main reason behind uptick in cases of pertussis.

Dexter Cabalza

Dexter Cabalza

Philippine Daily Inquirer


File photo of Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

March 22, 2024

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) urged parents on Thursday to have their children immunized as it noted the growing number of deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly pertussis and measles.

In a statement, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa reminded the public to get the following shots for their children, which are available free of charge at local health centers: pentavalent diphtheria; pertussis and tetanus; hepatitis B; Haemophilus influenzae type B (DPT-HepB-HiB) and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

An outbreak of pertussis has been declared in Quezon City by Mayor Joy Belmonte, with 23 cases reported as of March 20, with four deaths.

There were only 27 pertussis cases in the city last year, with three deaths. Compared to this year, no cases were reported for the first three months of 2023.
COVID-19 effect

According to the DOH, disruptions in routine immunization at primary care during the COVID-19 pandemic were the main reason behind the 453 reported cases of pertussis in just the first 10 weeks of 2024.

The figure was 1,870 percent higher than the 23 cases during the same period last year. Prepandemic, the number of pertussis cases during the said period was 52 in 2019 and 27 in 2020. Seven cases were reported in 2021 and two in 2022.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that causes influenza-like symptoms of mild fever, colds, and coughing 7 to 10 days after exposure. In typical cases, it develops into a dry cough, which ends with a whooping sound as air is inhaled.

Treatable by antibiotics, the disease is best prevented through vaccination.

The DOH also reported that as of Feb. 24, 569 measles and rubella cases had been recorded nationwide.

“All regions, except for Bicol and Central Visayas, reported increasing cases in the recent month,” it said.

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