How do we protect ourselves and especially our children against diseases such as flu, measles, polio, and pneumonia? Simple, get vaccinated! These are just some of the vaccine-preventable diseases and you or your child don’t have to suffer from it. You can get the vaccines from a pediatrician or even free via your local health centers. My kids got free measles injections last year when some people from our health center went to our area.
It is important not to delay or skip immunization this year, especially when certain viruses are in season, and more importantly now that we have a pandemic. Remember that the current coronavirus virus crisis is most often attacking the respiratory system, and the pneumococcal vaccine will greatly help in making you healthy.
But, to date, the vaccination rate in the Philippines is now at an all-time low because of the lockdown, a Department of Health (DOH) official said. For this reason, the DOH and other medical experts are calling for continued immunization despite the quarantine explaining that the country could not afford an outbreak within a pandemic.
The DOH National Immunization Program manager, Dr. Maria Wilda Silva, said that from January to March, vaccination coverage has dropped to 7 percent which is an all-time low. This number is way below the ideal 24 percent coverage for the country to reach the 95 percent target by the end of 2020.
“This is very low because of the disruption from both the supply and demand side,” Silva said in the recent online Kapihan of Samahang Plaridel.
The call for immunization is strongly aligned with the statements released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF which also highlighted the importance of continuing vaccination at this challenging time. She said that the benefits of immunization clearly outweigh the risks at this time.
“Don’t be afraid because children must get immunized. They are at higher risk of getting measles, polio, pneumonia, and other vaccine-preventable diseases,” according to Dr. Lulu Bravo said, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination.
“Let us all be reminded that first, if children and other vulnerable sectors are not vaccinated, they can get sick and can die from these vaccine-preventable diseases,” she adds.
Silva shared that one of the vaccine-preventable diseases, pneumonia, remains the number one killer disease among children 5 years old and below. The tender for the child pneumococcal vaccine—between PCV 10 and PCV 13– is currently being reviewed by the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) for comparability and cost-effectiveness.
Asked on the new evidence presented by the World Health Organization (WHO) saying that the two PCVs in the market are equally effective in protecting the children from pneumonia, Silva said: “When we did the cost effectiveness analysis, they are both cost effective. The price of PCV10 and PCV13, they fall on that range na cost effective sila pareho. But, of course, there is another benefit when we chose the PCV13 because it contains te three serotypes that are not found in PCV10 before. But now with the new evidence, this was now presented to National Immunization Committee and then it was brought up to the HTAC for further review and we are waiting for the review.”
The PCV tender is massive, which is even bigger than that of the controversial Dengvaxia procurement.
“Currently, there is only one available pneumococcal conjugate vaccine available in the market (PCV 13). It is a very expensive vaccine and its eating up more than 60% of the budget of the national immunization program. Mahal talaga pag isang produkto lang ang nasa merkado, ” Silva said.
The HTAC Review of the PCV vaccines is expected to be completed this June.
For her part, Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP), said that like COVID-19, “each opponent virus has its own effective weapon of infecting vulnerable individuals, especially children which are why vaccinations are critical even during a pandemic.
“Sa ngayon, meron na tayong mabisang bala para sa tigdas, polio, tusperina, flu, pulmonya, pagtatae at iba pang mga sakit. So, labanan natin at sugpuin natin ito upang mapanatili nating malusog ang ating mga bata. Sama-sama, tulong-tulong tayong ihayag sa mga magulang kung gaano kahalaga ang magpabakuna.” (For now, we already have an effective defense weapon against measles, polio, pertussis, flu, pneumonia, diarrhea, and many other illnesses. We need to fight and beat these to ensure the health of our kids. We should all together make parents aware how important it is to get vaccinated.)