There were 14,000 more measles cases reported in the Philippines from January to November this year than in the same period last year, the World Health Organization in the Philippines reported.
Maricel Castro, WHO Philippines' technical officer for its Expanded Program on Immunization, said that 17,000 measles cases have been reported in the first 11 months of the year, a 466.67-percent jump from the 3,000 in the same period in 2017.
Castro told GMA News that at the start of 2018, there were still two million children aged 5 years and younger who had not been immunized against measles.
Castro cited population migration, displacement due to disasters and the Marawi siege, inaccessibility of some places, the lack of health workers, and the alleged unavailability of vaccines in some health centers as reasons why some children have not been vaccinated yet.
Asked if the Dengvaxia controversy was a factor, Castro replied, “I think 'yung controversy na 'yon ay nakaapekto talaga. Pero hindi natin kasi sa kanya mabe-blame din lahat nung hinaharap nating problema sa measles sa ngayon. Kasi even before the Dengvaxia controversy, meron na po talagang na-observe tayo na pagbaba nung ating tinatawag na routine immunization coverage in the last five years.”
Last week, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III pointed to the Dengvaxia controversy as one of the reasons for the drop in measles vaccinations.
Experts urge immunization
Castro added that the measles vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in reducing the number of cases of measles and those dying from the illness.
“Actually, sa bakuna, wala pong overdose,” Castro explained. “Ano ba naman 'yung konting kirot na magtatagal lang naman for a few minutes kaysa 'yung magkakasakit 'yung anak nila, mag-stay sa hospital for more than a week, gagastos sila nang malaki.”
Measles may also bring complications such as pneumonia, and post-measles encephalitis, she said. “Hindi natin makikita agad. Even na maka-recover na yung bata, puwede pa rin po siya after a few years actually na maka-experience ng brain infection,” Castro warned.
In a separate interview, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said that measles in children can lead to pneumonia and secondary infections that could be fatal. If a patient has Vitamin A deficiency, he or she may go blind. “Maaaring magkaroon ng scarring o peklat sa cornea. Kaya may mga bulag, yung puti yung mata nila,” Domingo said.
Measles is also dangerous for pregnant women.
Domingo said that although the risk for congenital defect is low, “'Yung mother, tumataas 'yung rate nang naho-hospitalize for penumonia at saka sa paghihina ng katawan. Mas mataas din 'yung rate nung nagka-measles na buntis na pagkapanganak nila, maliliit 'yung baby nila. Low birth weight 'yung mga babies. At siyempre, kung medyo maaga pa during the pregnancy, mas mataas din 'yung possibility na magkaroon ng miscarriage.”
Domingo also urged vaccination against the preventable disease.
“The higher the coverage, the better for everybody,” he stressed.
“Yung pagpapabakuna, regalo kasi ito na mabibigay natin sa anak natin to protect them. Para maprotektahan sila sa napakaraming sakit,” Domingo added.
Sarangani, Negros Oriental
Domingo added that in the province of Sarangani, the number of reported measles cases increased to 101 from 84 last week, with the number of deaths at 20.
The Department of Health (DOH) Region 7’s Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit also reported 193 cases in Negros Oriental from January 1 to December 1 this year, prompting a declaration of a measles outbreak in March.
“May reported cases actually starting pa noong March. May mga clustering group of cases. Pero itong recently, naghihintay pa tayo ng confirmation kasi we have to send the blood test to RITM [Research Institute for Tropical Medicine],” Domingo said. — BM, GMA News