An estimated 2.9-million Filipino children are unvaccinated and remain vulnerable to life-threatening diseases such as measles, rubella and polio, UNICEF highlights today as it marks World Immunization Week from April 24 to 30.
The measles immunization coverage in the country has declined at an alarming rate, from 88 percent in 2013 to 73 percent in 2017. In 2018, measles immunization coverage was recorded at less than 70 percent, far below the 95 percent required for population immunity. Public hesitancy, vaccine stock-outs, the lack of aptly trained health workers and accessibility of hard-to-reach areas put many children susceptible to diseases. This leads to more outbreaks and put more children at-risk of getting sick from life-threatening diseases.
“Every child has the right to the best possible health care and access to disease protection through timely vaccination. Vaccines are the safest and most effective way of saving lives,” says UNICEF Representative a.i. Julia Rees.
While Philippine laws support immunization through the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act or Republic Act 1052 that makes basic immunization mandatory and free at any government hospitals or health centers for infants and children up to five years of age. UNICEF advocates that the unfinished business of immunization is every child’s right and everyone’s business.
Increasing immunization coverage requires everyone to work together urgently, not only health workers. While parents and caregivers are mainly responsible in having their children immunized. Everyone in the community has a role in ensuring that all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, are immunized according to schedule. Local leaders, religious groups, the academe, friends and family of parents with children, and influencers have a role in making sure every child is reached with the right information and that parents are empowered to make the right decisions.
UNICEF works with the Department of Health, the World Health Organization, and other partners to protect and promote immunization. Throughout its seven decades in the Philippines, UNICEF has helped the government through:
• Procuring vaccines and other immunization supplies such as vaccine fridges vaccine carriers and temperature monitoring devices;
• Strengthening the immunization supply chain;
• Building the capacity of health workers involved in immunization at the national and local levels;
• Developing guidelines and monitoring tools;
• Introducing innovations in the vaccine cold chain like the use of solar refrigerators in case of disasters;
• Empowering local health actors by establishing health boards and enacting ordinances;
• Helping health workers communicate health messages effectively.
UNICEF has been relentless in saving children’s lives through immunization against preventable childhood diseases. The UN Children’s agency has helped the Philippine government eradicate polio and maternal and neonatal tetanus, proving that vaccines work and are safe and effective.