April 28, 2022
MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) has launched the Chikiting Bakunation Days — a vaccination drive for children aged six months to 59 months old (4.91 years) against non-COVID diseases.
The drive was launched after the DOH Epidemiology Bureau gathered data showing the incidence of measles in all regions in 2021, Dr. Joannah Boralio, Medical Officer III of the National Immunization Program (NIP), said in a briefing on Wednesday.
This indicates poor vaccination coverage against measles and a possibility of an outbreak if the trend could not be reversed, Boralio noted.
“So noticeable also in the report is that most of the measles cases are actually [in children] six to 59 months old, that are unvaccinated or with unknown vaccination status,” she said. “So this translates to a huge amount of cohorts that are really susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases or VPDs such as measles.”
According to Boralio, the rise in measles cases and other VPDs may be partly due to the higher mobility of the public since restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have been eased.
However, this may also result in people, especially children, getting infected with other ailments aside from COVID-19.
To counter that, the DOH and its attached agencies decided to conduct a mass vaccination with catch-up drives to coincide with World Immunization Week.
“So again, having mentioned the huge number of susceptible cohorts, an outbreak is really imminent, because added to this is the country now has increased mobility of the general public, as COVID-19 cases go down,” Boralio explained.
“So this means the infectious diseases transmissions may (not) be COVID-19, are actually [VPDs] is more likely to happen,” she added.
The poor surveillance, as most efforts are geared towards COVID-19, also plays a part in why VPD cases are rising.
“So lastly, there is also the problem of having a relatively poor surveillance of our VPDs, that adds to the possibility of having an outbreak. So in order to prevent the continuous rise in vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, the Department of Health through the National Immunization Program or NIP will launch the Chikiting Bakunation Days,” Boralio said.
“It is a national vaccination day for teens and catch-up immunizations. So for the key beneficiaries of this campaign, we are targeting to vaccinate the zero to two months old children from 2021, which is around 1.100 million children, and also included to be vaccinated in the campaign are zero to twelve months old children who are illegible for the year 2022,” she added.
This is not the first time health experts warned about the possibility of measles and other VPDs rising amid the pandemic.
Last July 2021, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) warned that the vaccination rates in the Philippines against deadly but vaccine-preventable ailments were slumping, as attention shifted to COVID-19 and as the pandemic limited movement.
Unicef officials stressed, however, that the situation in the Philippines was alarming because, even before the pandemic, they have observed a significant drop in immunizations.
Some medical expert blamed the low vaccine confidence of Filipinos on the controversy of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which they feel have been sensationalized to criticize the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
The Public Attorney’s Office, one of the agencies being blamed for allegedly eroding vaccine confidence, insisted that it is not their fault that the anti-dengue vaccines were supposedly faulty.