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Immunization program to continue amid quarantine —DOH

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday assured the public that the government's immunization program will continue amid the enhanced community quarantine.

“Wala pong nabago sa ating mga serbisyo. Tuloy pa rin po ang ating mga serbisyong
pangkalusugan dito sa ating bayan,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at a virtual press briefing.

"Kahit na po sabihin natin na meron po tayong lockdown, ito [immunization program] po ay tinutuloy pa rin natin dahil alam po natin na essential services po itong mga bagay na ito,” she added.

While encouraging parents to still visit rural health facilities for their infant’s scheduled immunization, Vergeire also insisted that local government units must ensure that proper scheduling of vaccination among newborns must be implemented and followed.

This is to impose orderliness while strictly adhering to social distancing practices that aim to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019.

Vergeire's pronouncement came as a member of the House of Representatives pushed for  a bill seeking to make immunization mandatory.

Deputy House Majority Leader Bernadette Herrer-Dy, co-sponsor of the Mandatory Immunization Program bill, said the measure will require all to be vaccinated against preventable diseases. 

"Among these preventable diseases, pneumonia is one of the most dreaded, as it severely and adversely affects children and those of advanced age. It is among the top killer diseases in the country," Herrera said in a statement.

Under the bill, vaccines may be administered for free at any government hospital or health facility, in any public school or community, and in any private health facility if such is included in the Philippine Health Insurance benefit package.

Other preventable sisease covered by the bill are tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis-B, human influenza type B, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis, human papilloma virus, varicella or chickenpox, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), boosters for measles, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria.

Herrera also stressed that there is a need to break the monopoly in the procurement of pneumonia vaccines.

"The procurement of the pneumonia vaccines alone for this year will cost around P4.9 billion, almost three times the amount of the Dengvaxia procurement. For this reason alone, we must be vigilant and make sure that the DOH will not favor a single supplier or a single type of pneumonia vaccine,” Herrera explained.

“I implore the DOH to complete its assessment of the viability all types of pneumonia vaccines and conduct an open and competitive bidding," she added, referring to the two pneumonia vaccines in the market, PCV10 and PCV13, in the Philippines.

According to the World Health Organization, the two vaccines are comparable and are both equally effective in preventing overall pneumococcal diseases in children.

She said while pneumonia remains at the third spot next to ischemic heart disease and cancer as causes of death among Filipinos, it remains to be the number one killer disease among children five years old and below. —Joahna Lei Casilao/LDF, GMA News