De Lima concerned over possible measles outbreak amid vaccine scares

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima is concerned over the continued refusal of some parents to have their child vaccinated a year after the Dengvaxia controversy transpired, placing more children at high risk of acquiring deadly diseases, like measles.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 966 seeking a Senate inquiry into the pandemic potential of measles that has caused deaths and infections in some parts of the Philippines while the people continue to be scared of the government’s free vaccines.

“It is incumbent upon the government to guarantee and uphold the general welfare of its people by ensuring that the Filipinos are rightly and adequately informed about the benefits of immunization from preventable diseases and be duly educated and aware about its importance especially to the Filipino youth,” she said.

As a result of the controversy brought about the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, the lady from Bicol noted that many people now refuse to avail of the government’s free vaccines which resulted to a low vaccination coverage in most regions in the country.

Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo reportedly confirmed that the Department of Health (DOH) has not reached its vaccination rate target of 85 to 90 percent because 60 percent of Filipino children are not getting their scheduled vaccines.

“Unvaccinated individuals, especially the children and pregnant women, have the highest risk of acquiring measles which could result to long-term complications, and worse, death,” De Lima noted.

This year alone, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a total of 17,298 measles cases which constitutes 367 percent upsurge from 2017’s measles cases report of 3,706.

Last Nov. 29, the DOH has confirmed that it is monitoring a suspected outbreak in Sarangani after 18 Lumad children were reported to have possibly died from measles.

Official figures showed that 84 other suspected measles cases have been recorded, with ages ranging from four months old to 40 years old, majority of whom are female.

Prior to the reported measles outbreak in Sarangani, De Lima said it was likewise declared in Negros Oriental, Zamboanga City, Davao Region, Davao City and a barangay in Taguig City.

De Lima said the DOH should institute measures to insulate the government’s immunization program from the purported controversy surrounding the Dengvaxia program to prevent politically charged issues from affecting the health of the Filipinos.

“In order to prepare for the threats and fatal effects of the possible pandemic impact of measles and other infectious diseases, the government must not only ensure that proper health care is delivered, but at the same time, relieve the general public from unwarranted fears of vaccination and lead them back into trusting government efforts in promoting and protecting the health of every Filipino,” she said.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, vaccines “also make economic sense (because it) prevent illness, freeing up precious resources to invest in strong health system. Vaccination can also promote a stronger workforce and prevent losses in productivity.”

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