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Solons want immunization program continued amid COVID-19 crisis

A measure has been filed at the House of Representatives urging the continuous implementation of the National Immunization Program (NIP) for children amid the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

House Resolution 906, filed by Representatives Presley De Jesus, Sergio Dagooc, Godofredo Guya, and Adriano Ebcas on Tuesday, calls on the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure the continued safe implementation of the NIP for children and to secure and stabilize the supply of available vaccines through the conduct of open, fair and competitive bidding to prevent the outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases.



According to the resolution, the ongoing quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 has posed significant challenge or even completely halted the implementation of the NIP for children in community health centers and other vaccination facilities.

It argued that vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hepatitis-B, measles, mumps and rubella could be easily contracted by Filipino children aged five and below if they are not protected through immunization.

In the last two years, there was even a rise in VPD cases in the Philippines with small pockets of community outbreaks of measles and polio among Filipino children, it added.

"An open, fair, competitive procurement of NIP vaccines provide the Filipino people the broadest possible options for affordable, quality, and registered vaccines, allowing for potential significant savings to the government while at the same time, promoting strong public governance," the resolution read.

The DOH has spearheaded the implementation of the NIP aimed particularly to protect Filipino infants and children from VPDs through free routine immunizations.

The department, then, should be encouraged and continuously be supported to contain the current and future outbreaks of VPDs during the COVID-19 pandemic, or "an outbreak within an outbreak," the resolution stated.

In a virtual media forum earlier in the day, House Committee on Health chair Angelina Tan also stressed the importance of a continuing immunization program despite the community quarantines to ensure that children will be protected from future outbreaks.

"We have several initiatives in Congress in relation to the country’s immunization program," she said.

"We are pushing for the creation of the NITAG, a national immunization advisory board, and we are trying to adopt a school-based immunization program that will benefit our students," she added.

Tan also reiterated her call for an open, competitive bidding process in vaccines, saying that it is important in an immunization program that no single manufacturer will be favored in the procurement of vaccines.

In the same media forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the vulnerable sector will be prioritized in COVID-19 vaccination once the vaccine is already available.

As of May 27, a total of 15,049 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Philippines, with 904 deaths and 3,506 recoveries. —LDF, GMA News