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DOH: Measles outbreak possible in 2023 due to ‘low’ immunization among children

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday warned against an impending measles outbreak next year due to the low complete immunization coverage among Filipino children.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said they had a meeting with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF and learned that the number of children in the country susceptible to measles is around three million.

“Lahat po ng mga bata naman na hindi naka-receive ng kahit na anong doses ng measles vaccine, kasi dalawang beses po ‘yan binibigay sa ating mga kabataan, ay nasa almost 3 million na na mga kabataan,” she said in a press conference.

(All the children who have not received any doses of the measles vaccine, as it is given twice, are almost 3 million.)

“Kaya po nagfa-flag at nagwa-warn po ang WHO at UNICEF sa atin na kailangan nating paigtingin ang routine immunization [the WHO and UNICEF are flagging and warning us that we need to intensify routine immunization] because there might be an impending outbreak of measles in the country by next year if we are not going to do anything,” she added.

Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPI) President Dr. Jose Rene de Grano said Monday that cases of measles, along with typhoid fever, are on the rise during the third quarter of the year.

To address this issue, Vergeire said that the DOH met with its implementing units to strengthen routine immunization in the country.

“‘Yung measles vaccine, ito po ‘yung pinakahuli na antigen or ‘yung bakuna na binibigay sa mga bata para masabi nating fully immunized child siya. So with this, mababa,” she said.

(The measles vaccine is the last antigen or vaccine that is given to children so that we can say that he or she is a fully immunized child. This is low.)

“Ang atin pong pool of susceptible na mga bata na wala pang kahit isang mga bakuna or zero dose pa lang sila dito sa ating bansa for these past two years of the pandemic, is almost 1 million,” she continued

(Our pool of susceptible children who haven't received even one vaccine or zero doses for these past two years of the pandemic is almost 1 million.)

Vergeire said that there are only 62.9% fully immunized children in the country, which is still far from the government’s target of 95%.

The health official attributed the low routine immunization coverage in the country to the vaccine hesitancy of the parents and the COVID-19 lockdowns which restricted them from having their children vaccinated. — DVM, GMA News