Parents used to trust vaccines especially ones that are supposed to be given to newborns and babies. But because of the Dengvaxia controversy, the confidence in any type of vaccinations lessened to an alarming degree. As mentioned before in some of my blog posts, both my sons went through the dengue vaccine ordeal. But BCG, MMR, and other routine immunizations have long been proven to be safe and effective. My stand is if you want to reduce your child’s risk of infection, please vaccinate your kids.
As a mother, the ongoing increase in measles cases in the Philippines is alarming. A recent Department of Health Philippine Integrated Diseases Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) report showed that our of most 22,000 cases of clinical measles-rubella reported between Jan-Dec 2018, there were 5120 confirmed measles cases. Among these cases, about 200 deaths were reported, among which 59 were confirmed measles deaths. This reflects a staggering 547% increase in cases compared to the previous year (791 cases and 17 deaths in 2017). All regions in the country have been affected by the crisis.
Measles is a highly communicable disease, having an attach rate of 90% among susceptible exposed individuals. More than 95% of a given population needs to be protected to interrupt ongoing transmission. The World Health Organization aims to achieve at least 95% coverage with both the first and second route doses of measles vaccine (or measles-rubella-containing vaccine as appropriate) in each district and nationally as part of the Global Measles and Rubella Strategic Plan 2012-2020. Unfortunately, the National Demographic and Health Survey revealed a decreasing trend in the number of vaccinated children, from 80% in 2008 to 70% in 2017. Recent news articles have quoted DOH officials confirming a further decline in vaccination coverage to about 60% last year.
Pediatrics doctors all over the country have come together to launch an advocacy aimed at restoring confidence in the globally accepted and effective protocol of childhood vaccination in response to the current measles outbreak. Identifying vaccine hesitancy as a key factor in the outbreak, the movement seeks to engage in activities that will highlight the safety and efficacy of vaccines provided by the public program.
The Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), a sub specialty organization of the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), has launched “Save The Future” campaign during its annual convention held on February 20, 2019 at Crowne Plaza Galleria Manila in Ortigas, Pasig City. An online community has also been created at www.facebook.com/SaveTheFuturePH in order to help drive a digital information, education and communication campaign.
PIDSP president Dr. Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim said “Addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy within our individual and collective capacities is a matter of professional as well as personal responsibility being Filipino citizens. Our movement is a public-private partnership that aims to mobilize our society members to cooperate and collaborate with government stakeholders in making the most of our available vaccine resources and to deploy them properly and effectively”.
In a recent joint letter to its members-doctors and the DOH, the PPS and PIDSP issued an “urgent plea” to “immunize eligible children against vaccine-preventable diseases”. This primarily involves the routine immunization schedule for infants that vaccinate against tuberculosis, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, polio, Hemophilus influenza B, Hepatitis B and measles from birth to year of life.
The organization reminded pediatricians to ensure up-to-date immunization to their patients as part of the primary responsibility of their individual practices. In response to the current measles outbreak, PPS and PIDSP also now recommend pediatricians to administer the first dose of measles vaccine to infants starting at the age of 6 months instead of the usual 9 months, as recommended in the country’s Childhood Immunization Schedule. The schedule is determined annually by both societies along with the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV).
PPS and PIDSP also urged members to collaborate and coordinate with their respective city, municipal or provincial health offices in organizing community-based regular vaccine mission activities to help administer free measles and other vaccines that are available to qualified children, adolescents, and event adults.
PPS president Dr. Salvacion Gatchalian said “We need to take urgent action in order to preserve the advances we have made in the past decades in term of curing children of fatal disease and steadily decreasing the number of vaccine-preventable deaths in the Filipinos population. We are optimistic that all of us working together will effectively address this healthcare crisis that has gripped our country”.